Skip to main content

Full text of "Nuclear accident and recovery at Three Mile Island : a report"

See other formats


Report to the United States Senate 

Nuclear Accident 
and Recovery at 
Three Mile Island 

A Special Investigation 

Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation 

for the 
Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works 

From the collection of the 

o PreTinger 


San Francisco, California 

o ? on f ress 1 COMMITTEE PRINT 

2d Session J 









JUNE 1980 

SERIAL NO. 96-14 

Printed for the use of the Committee on Environment and Public Works 

M-058 O WASHINGTON : 1980 


JENNINGS RANDOLPH, West Virginia, Chairman 




JOHN C. CULVER, Iowa JOHN H. CHAFEE, Rhode Island 

GARY HART, Colorado ALAN K. SIMPSON, Wyoming 


JOHN W. YAGO, Jr., Staff Director 
BAILEY GUARD, Minority Staff Director 


GARY HART, Colorado, Chairman 







Washington, D.C., June 23, 1980. 
Pi' *',<! nt of the Senate. 
Washington. D.C. 

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT : AVe transmit herewith the report "Nuclear Accident and Recovery at Three 
Mile Island." the product of a special investigation carried out by the Subcommittee on Nuclear Regula- 
tion for the Committee on Environment and Public Works. 

This report was developed by the Subcommittee under the Committee's standing jurisdiction over 
non-military environmental control and regulation of nuclear energy. We believe it will make a contribu- 
tion to congressional and public understanding of the Three Mile Island accident. 



Ranking Minority Member. 



Washington. D.C... June <7, 1980. 



Ranking Minority Member, 

X finite Committee on Environment and Public Works, 
Washington, D.C. 

DEAR JENNINGS AND BOB: We are pleased to transmit to you the report, "Nuclear Accident and 
Recovery at Three Mile Island," which is the result of the Special Investigation conducted for the Com- 
mittee on Environment and Public Works by the Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation. 

On June 21, 1979, the Senate provided the Committee additional funds for the investigation and 
for a series of related policy studies on major issues arising out of the accident. 

The one-year task of the Special Investigation will be completed by the end of June when the policy 
studies are transmitted to the Committee. 

We believe the report makes a valuable contribution to Congressional and public understanding of 
the Three Mile Island accident. The investigation was conducted with a temporary staff that operated 
on a non-partisan, unified basis. All findings and conclusions are keyed to supporting facts in the text of 
the report, and these facts, in turn, are fully referenced to supporting documents. 

The Special Investigation reviewed the work of other principal investigations of the accident, in- 
cluding those of the Presidential Commission on the Three Mile Island Accident and the Special Inquiry 
of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Our report also covers some areas not emphasized in the other 
investigations. We provide a detailed accounting of the first day of the accident, of certain pre-accident 
conditions that related directly to the accident, and of the cleanup and recovery operations at Three 
Mile Island. 

By concentrating in greater depth on these areas, we believe that this report relates more directly to 
the oversight interests of the Committee and to possible legislative action to be taken by the Committee. 
We extend our appreciation for your remarkable support and assistance throughout the term of 
the project. Your wise counsel and advice have been most important to the Committee Members and staff. 
We believe that the report is consistent with the high standards of the Environment and Public Works 
Committee of the U.S. Senate. 

We also extend our appreciation to our superb staff which has worked unstintingly and profes- 
sionally out of the limelight to produce a report that we all hope will contribute to serious and 
thoughtful public discussion of the future direction of nuclear power in our society. 


Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation. 

Ranking Minority Member, 
Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation. 




Chapter 1: Introduction 1 

Staff of the Three Mile Island Special Investigation 5 

Chapter 2: Findings And Conclusions 7 

I. The Accident 

II. Recover}' 19 

Chapter 3: How The Plant Works 23 

Nuclear vs. Non-Nuclear Plants 2.5 

Three Mile Island, Unit 2 25 

Chapter 4: I low The Accident Happened: A Mechanical Summary 33 

The First Seconds " 35 

Steam in the System 36 

Core Uncovering 37 

A Site, Then General Emergency 37 

Strategies to Reach Stability 37 

Chapter 5 : Radiation Effects And Monitoring 41 

Measuring Radiation 43 

Radiation Monitoring at TMI 44 

Chapter 6: Prior To The Accident 47 

Introduction 49 

The Evolution of Unit 2 50 

Related Accidents at Other Plants 76 

Emergency Response Planning 79 

Chapter 7: Accident At Three Mile Island: The First Day 87 

Introduction 93 

4:00:36 The Beginning 93 

A Site Emergency Is Declared 110 

A General Emergency Is Declared 112 

Stable Conditions Achieved 151 

Addenda to Chapter 7 153 

Chapter 8: Recovery At Three Mile Island 161 

Introduction 163 

Technical Aspects of Recovery 164 

Financial Aspects of Recovery 190 

Social Issues in Recovery 196 

Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery 201 

Appendix A : Three Mile Island In Perspective : Other Nuclear Accidents 219 

Appendix B: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Organization 227 

Appendix C: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Reactor Licensing Process 233 

Appendix D: Chronology of First-Day Responses 239 

Appendix E: Technical Glossary 365 

Appendix F: Glossarj* of Organizations 377 

References _. 383 


Allied Fix Service. Inc., pp. 60. 105, 174; Babcock & Wilcox. p. 75 : Metropolitan Edison Co.. pp. 42, 
4s. !C). 177. 180. 181 ; Nuclear Regulatory Commission, pp. 2. 8, 55, 88. 92, 133 ; Wide World Photos, p. 162. 


Chapter 1 


- . 

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant 

Chapter 1 


The Committee on Environment and Public Works has jurisdiction over all matters relating to 
environmental regulation and control of civilian nuclear energy, including the activities of the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission (XRC). This responsibility is carried out through the Subcommittee on Nuclear 
Regulation. The Committee was assigned this regulatory jurisdiction after the Joint Committee on 
Atomic Energy was abolished in 1977. 

On June -21. 1979. the Senate approved S. Res. 171. providing funds for the Committee for a Special 
Investigation of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and for a series of related policy studies on 
Federal regulation and control of the nuclear power program. The report accompanying the resolution 
>tated that both the investigation and the policy studies were to be completed within one year for the 
Committee on Environment and Public Works by the Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation. 

This report on the investigation of the accident at Three Mile Island fulfills part of that assignment. 
The policy studies conducted by the Special Investigation staff will be completed by the end of the one 
year project. Together, the investigation report and the studies should assist the Congress in exercising 
'its responsibility with respect to the Three Mile Island accident and in considering the need for legisla- 
tive and administrative changes for more effective regulation and control of commercial nuclear power. 

This independent Congressional investigation is consistent with the unique role of the Congress in 
the Nation's atomic energy program, a role that dates back to the establishment of the Atomic Energy 
Commission in 1946. Congress established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1974, as it had the 
earlier Atomic Energy Commission, to be independent of the President and of the Executive Branch 
and to keep Congress "fully and currently informed" of its activities. This Congressional involvement 
carries with it a responsibility to develop independent findings and to come to independent conclusions 
about the facts and implications of Three Mile Island. 

All findings and conclusions in the report are keyed to supporting facts in the text. These facts, in 
turn, are extensively referenced to supporting documentation. Reference numbers appear in parentheses 
in the text : the references themselves are the last section of the report. 

This Senate Special Investigation is one of several inquiries into the accident. The inquiries of The 
President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island and of the Nuclear Regulatory Commis- 
sion Special Inquiry Group have been completed. The Senate investigation of the accident differed in 
several respects from those of the Presidential Commission and the NRC. This investigation was kept 
small in size and selective in scope, to avoid duplication of the comprehensive approach to the accident 
taken by the other inquiries. 

The Special Investigation, consistent with an objective stated in the report accompanying the 
Senate resolution, examined the work of these other inquiries as part of its independent assessment of 
the accident. For example, the Special Investigation staff, in addition to examining original plant 
records, reviewed the files of other investigations to explore design and mechanical aspects of the 
accident. This permitted the Subcommittee to conduct the investigation and studies on a limited budget 
and with a small investigative staff. The General Accounting Office and the Congressional Research 
Service also provided assistance. 

The Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation received testimony on the accident from 61 witnesses at 
eight hearings. The Special Investigation staff conducted 97 transcribed interviews and conducted 
numerous others. 

The Subcommittee and the investigation staff heard from a broad spectrum of those involved in 
and concerned with the accident, including members and staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 
both at NRC headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area and at the Commission's Pennsylvania regional 

office; executives of the parent and operating utilities, of the Three Mile Island plant designer and of 
the reactor- vendor ; the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and senior State officials ; 
local elected officials and interested citizens from communities near the plant; company and government 
workers involved in building and licensing the plant and in responding to the accident; members or 
staff of two State public utility commissions; members of The President's Commission and investigators 
from that inquiry and from the Special Inquiry Group of the NRC: and nuclear advocates, nuclear 
critics and concerned citizens. 

The Special Investigation also examined thousands of pages of transcripts, depositions and other 
documents from the files of the NRC and of the involved companies. 

Given the volume of this material, it was necessary and useful to be selective about what was investi- 
gated. The Subcommittee concentrated on specific areas that relate to the oversight interests of the 
Committee and to possible legislative action by the Congress. 

The Subcommittee, for example, chose to focus on the first 24 hours of the accident. In doing so, the 
Special Investigation staff reviewed all of the, transcripts of the telephone conversations between the 
TMI site and NRC headquarters during the first day the period that is now known to have involved 
the greatest instability and uncertainty at the plant. This section of the report presents a detailed narra- 
tive of what was known and not known to plant operators and managers, and to NRC and State officials, 
and endeavors to account for why actions were and were not taken. 

Beyond the uncertain hours of the first day of the accident, the Subcommittee focused on the cleanup 
operation at the site of the crippled reactor. More than a year after the accident, only a small portion of 
the cleanup work had been accomplished. Because cleanup and recovery at Three Mile Island are an 
extension of the accident itself, the Subcommittee explored this timely problem in all of its ramifica- 
tions technical, financial, social, legal and regulatory. 

In addition to the events of the first day of and the first year after the accident, this report traces 
the evolution of the TMI Unit-2 plant from its originally proposed site on the Atlantic coast at Oyster 
Creek, New Jersey, to the island in the middle of the Susquehanna River where it was eventually built. 
The move to the new site affected subsequent decisions about the design of the plant's control room. Some 
elements of the control room design contributed to difficulties encountered by plant operators during the 
accident. The report also describes problems encountered during early testing and operation of the plant 
that were directly related to the accident. 

The findings and conclusions of the investigation appear in Chapter 2 of this report. They are fol- 
lowed by three brief introductory chapters, intended for the general reader, describing in non-technical 
terms "How the Plant Works," "How the Accident Happened," and "Radiation Effects and Monitoring." 
The text of the investigation report itself follows these sections. 

Glossaries of technical terms and of governmental and private organizations involved in the accident 
and recovery appear at the end of the report as appendices. Other appendices provide a chronology of 
the first-day responses to the accident ; review previous nuclear accidents ; and describe the organization 
of the NRC and the NRC licensing process. 

The policy studies will focus on the adequacy of certain programs begun by the Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission and the nuclear industry as a result of lessons learned from Three Mile Island. In particular, 
the studies will examine programs to improve 

consideration of human factors in nuclear plant design and operation, 

the evaluation and dissemination of information on mechanical and operating problems experi- 
enced at nuclear power plants, 

emergency response to nuclear accidents, and 

the industry's new insurance program to cover replacement power costs following an accident. 

Finally, a word about the non-partisan nature of this investigation. In keeping with a tradition 
of the Committee of a close working relationship between the majority and minority members, a tempo- 
rary Special Investigation staff was set up on a unified, non-partisan basis. There were no separate ma- 
jority and minority investigation staffs; there are no separate majority and minority views in this report. 
This was possible because of close cooperation between the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Mem- 
ber, and among all members, of the Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee. 

The Subcommittee acknowledges the outstanding work of the Special Investigation staff . 



Paul L. Leventhal and James K. Asselstine 


William G. Ballaine 

Steven M. Blush 
Jay E. Boudreau 


David D. Carlson 
Joan M. Giannelli 


David E. Bucher 
Carla D'Arista 
Katherine W. Kimball 
Vivien F. Lee 

Mark E. Recktenwald 
Monte Simpson 
Eoy Squares 


Joan K. Ramsay 


Cheryl G. Brown 
Irene S. Sarate 
Mary Helen Sullivan 


Whitney Watriss 


Roy Squares 


Bruce Mann 

The Subcommittee acknowledges the contributions made by Jonathan C. Cottin and Drew C. Arena 
as members of the Special Investigation staff through December 1979. They did not participate in the 
preparation of the final report. 

Chapter 2 

Findings and Conclusions 

Victor Stello of the NRC testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation on the accident 

at Three Mile Island 

Chapter 2 

Findings and Conclusions 1 



1. Malfunctions in plant equipment - initiated 
the accident at Three Mile Island, but they alone 
did not cause the uncovering of the core or the 
severity and duration of the accident. Feedwater 
transients such as the one that initiated the March 
28 accident occur routinely at nuclear power 
plants. They result from a variety of minor equip- 
ment malfunctions or from human error such as 
experienced at TMI. 3 

Routine transient.-; can evolve into serious acci- 
dents if complicated bv human factor deficiencies 
and other deficiencies in training, in control room 
design, in instrumentation and equipment, in 
emergency procedures and in plant design. The 
psychological stress experienced by plant person- 
nel during a crisis is a further complicating factor. 

All of these factors can serve to confuse plant 
personnel and to render them unable to respond 
to a minor accident effectively. At TMI, these fac- 
tors caused a minor event to evolve into a serious 

2. Plant operators and managers inappropri- 
ately overrode the automatic safety equipment 
actions that were the immediate cause of the un- 
covering of. and severe damage to, the reactor 
core. 4 However, it is inappropriate and unfair sim- 
ply to blame these personnel for the Three Mile 
Island accident. It should be emphasized that the 
utility, the reactor-vendor, the architect-engineer 
and the XRC were responsible for deficiencies in 
training. 5 in control room design. 6 in instrumen- 
tation and equipment, 7 in plant design, 8 and in 

emergency procedures. 9 These deficiencies were the 
underlying cause of the accident. 

Many of these deficiencies resulted from insuffi- 
cient attention by the utility, the reactor-vendor, 
the architect-engineer and the XRC to human fac- 
tors in nuclear plant design and operation. 10 These 
human factor problems were l^eyond the control 
of the operators on duty during the accident and 
were so serious that they had consequences equiv- 
alent to those that could be caused solely by major 
mechanical failures and design defects. 

3. Several major weaknesses in the design of 
TMI-2 contributed to the difficulties faced by 
plant operators and managers in understanding 
plant behavior, in stabilizing the plant, and par- 
ticularly hi preventing radiological releases to the 
environment. 11 In some cases they involved equip- 
ment designed for use in an accident that failed 
to fulfill its intended purpose on March 28. 12 In 
other cases, design had focused on normal operat- 
ing conditions; instrumentation and equipment 
needed or useful under the emergency conditions 
at TMI had not been provided or were inadequate 
to the task. 13 These design weaknesses are of con- 
cern because of their possible generic safety 

Design weaknesses in the emergency-related 
equipment included : 

A system of some 1.200 alarms, of which 
several hundred went off in the first minutes. 
Operators said they had concluded prior to the 
accident that the alarms would provide little, if 
any. immediate assistance in diagnosing a major 
transient or in assigning priorities to accident con- 
ditions. 14 After the accident, operators said the 
alarms were "not very helpful" 15 and "got in the 
wav." 16 

1 The reader may find it useful to read first the introductory chapters. "How the Plant Works," "How the Accident 
Happened" and "Radiation Effects and Monitoring" for descriptions of plant systems and explanations of technical 

! Most particularly problems with the condensate polishing system and the failure of the pilot-operated relief ralve 
(PORV I . See p. 94 of the text. All pase references in this chapter are to the text. 

3 "Staff Report on the Generic Assessment of Feedwater Transients in Pressurized Water Reactors Designed by the 
Babcock & Wilcox Company." XRC, NTREG-0560, May 1979. 

4 Pp. 93-110. * Pp. 73-76. ' Pp. 56-64. ' Pp. 65-6. 69-71, 94, 96. 99-101. 103. 104. 155. ' Pp. 96. 99-100. 
' P. 58. Pp. 56, 60-63. " Pp. 94-96. 99-101. 103-104, 155. H Pp. 96, 99, 103-104. " Pp. 94, 96. 100-101, 106. 

113-114116-117. M Pp. 68-70, 99. "P. 99. "P. 99. 

51-058 - 80 - 2 

A computer printer that was, as anticipated 
by the operators, of little help because it failed to 
keep pace with the sequence of alarms 17 and be- 
came severely backlogged. 18 

A radiation monitor that was intended to be 
a key indicator of a loss-of-coolant accident 
(LOCA) but apparently did not sound on March 
28. Prior to the accident it may have been mis- 
calibrated, and on the first day it may have become 
disabled by the steam and water resulting from 
the LOCA." 

The failure of the containment building to 
seal automatically on initiation of high pressure 
injection, resulting in the automatic pumping of 
radioactive water from the containment into the 
unsealed auxiliary building. 20 

Design weaknesses related to equipment that was 
needed in the emergency, but was unavailable or 
inadequate to the task, included : 

The lack of a direct indicator to show whether 
the pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) was open 
or closed. 21 

Indicators of conditions in the reactor coolant 
drain tank (pointing to a LOCA) that were not 
directly visible to plant operators from the main 
console in the control room. 22 

The lack of strip chart recorders for reactor 
coolant drain tank conditions, without which it 
was difficult for operators to reconstruct trends in 
the tank's temperature, pressure and water level. 23 

The lack of instrumentation to measure water 
level in the reactor vessel directly. Instead, opera- 
tors had to rely on water level in the pressurizer 
as an indirect indicator that proved unreliable 
during the accident. 24 

The inability to maintain isolation of the con- 
tainment building when use of the let-down system 
was required to cope with the accident. 28 

The inability to seal off the pathways between 
the auxiliary building and the environment to pre- 
vent releases of radioactivity to the environment 
after operators overrode containment isolation in 
order to use the let-down system. 

Instrumention that was designed only for nor- 
mal operating conditions and could not provide 
readings for the extreme conditions produced by 
the accident. 28 Thus control room personnel could 
not monitor those extreme conditions directly. 27 
Since these misleading readings influenced actions 
taken to control the accident, the limited range of 

the instruments was a particularly significant 
weakness in plant design. 

In addition, as had happened before during 
early testing of the plant, the "candy-cane" curve 
in the hotlegs trapped steam formed from boiling 
of the coolant. This blockage inhibited natural 
circulation and contributed to difficulties in under- 
standing plant behavior and in stabilizing the 

Had these weaknesses not been present in the 
design of the plant, the operators and managers 
would have been in a better position to understand 
and to respond to the accident. 

4. The emergency procedures for Unit 2 were 
vague, confusing, incomplete and not fully under- 
stood by plant personnel. 28 They did not provide 
useful guidance to operators and managers in 
identifying and responding to the critical elements 
of the accident in the early hours. 29 

Better emergency procedures and better under- 
standing of them by plant operators and managers 
would have facilitated diagnosis and understand- 
ing of the plant's behavior. It should be noted, 
however, that it is impossible to write emergency 
procedures to fit every possible accident sequence. 

5. There were several weaknesses in the TMI 
operator training program that contributed to the 
difficulty control room personnel had in under- 
standing and responding to the sequence of events 
of the March 28 accident. 30 

These weaknesses included : 

Limited training in multiple-failure acci- 
dents, particularly such prolonged ones as experi- 
enced on March 28 at TMI ; 31 

Limited training in the basics of nuclear 
power plant physics and behavior; 32 

Failure to instruct operators on conditions in 
which water level in the pressurizer would not be 
a reliable indicator of water level in the reactor 
vessel. Operators had been directed never to let the 
pressurizer fill completely ("go solid") with water 
during plant operation. 33 This direction had been 
based on the concern that a pressurizer "solid" 
with water could limit their ability to control 
pressure in the primary system and could result in 
damage to the plant. 34 

Operators and managers would have been better 
prepared to respond to the accident if their train- 
injr had been more extensive in these areas. 

1 Pp. 65-66, 94-95, 155. " Pp. 100-101. 

" Pp. 69-70, 99. 1 Pp. 69-71, 99. " Pp. 103-104. M Pp. 99-101. 
23 Pp. 100-101. " P. 96. M P. 96. 

26 Examples were the computer and control panel instrumentation used to monitor critical plant parameters, includ- 
ing temperatures in the hotlegs of the primary coolant system and temperatures inside the core. The scale for hotleg 
temperatures on the control panel went only to 620 F (they reached an estimated 720-820 F during the accident) (see 
pp. 106, 113, 132, 142) ; the computer could print out incore temperatures only as high as 700 F (they reached an esti- 
mated 4,500 F), see p. 113. 

27 Pp. 113, 114. M Pp. 102-104, 154-156. " Pp. 102-104, 154-156. 30 Pp. 73-76. 96-97, 101, 106. " Pp. 73, 75. 
a Pp. 74, 104-108. M Pp. 74, 96-97. " P. 96. 


6. Despite the inadequate training, confusing in- 
formation and problems with instrumentation, one 
operator did diagnose the stuck-open PORV soon 
after he arrived at about 6 a.m. 35 He then di- 
rected that the block valve for the PORV be closed, 
thereby stopping the leakage. 36 In addition, within 
hours after the core was uncovered, at least three 
utility personnel correctly diagnosed that condi- 
tion. 37 One of them was a member of the utility's 
emergency command team. 35 He stated that it had 
been generally recognized that the core may have 
been uncovered for an extended period after 7 
a.m. 39 Yet statements by other senior managers on 
the utility's emergency command team suggest that 
they never recognized that the core was uncovered 
on the first day of the accident 40 


1. Three Mile Island was the most severe acci- 
dent at a commercial nuclear power plant in the 
United States. 

2. The severity of a nuclear accident is measur- 
able in term? of duration, extent of damage, re- 
leases of radiation, near- and long-term adverse 
health effects on both the public and workers, and 
hazards of cleanup. 

3. The accident at Three Mile Island was of 
prolonged duration, resulted in severe damage to 
the core, and left the Unit 2 facility highly con- 
taminated by radioactivity. The cleanup task is 
still in its early stages and. as described below, is 
unprecedented in scope. 

4. Three Mile Island is not the first serious acci- 
dent at a nuclear reactor here or abroad. For 
example, in 1957 there was an accident at the 
Windscale plutonium-production reactor in Great 
Britain that involved offsite releases 1.000 times 
greater than those at TMI." Tn 1961, three workers 
were killed in an accident at SL-1, a small research 
reactor in Idaho. 42 An accident at the Enrico 
Fermi power reactor in Michigan in 1966 resulted 
in a partial core melt. 43 

5. The Special Investigation reviewed some 
available data and the findings of other investiga- 
tions regarding radiation releases. It found no 
persuasive evidence that releases during the acci- 
dent resulted in adverse near-term physical health 
effects or will result in statistically significant 
adverse loner-term physical health effects. 44 

The pending House-Senate conference report on 
the FY 1980 XRC Authorization Bill contains an 
amendment by this Committee directing the XRC 

and EPA to conduct a feasibility study on acquir- 
ing additional information for plant workers on 
the incidence of any adverse long-term physical 
health effects from the TMI accident. The 'State 
of Pennsylvania is also attempting to acquire ad- 
ditional information for the general population 
bearing on the incidence of any adverse long-term 
physical health effects from the accident. 

The absence of evidence of major releases is 
supported by conclusions of the Food and Drug 
Administration based on its checking of photo- 
graphic film in stores and facilities near the plant 
for fogging caused by radiation. 45 

Offsite radiation monitoring was both disor- 
ganized and insufficient during the early hours of 
the accident, making determination of actual re- 
leases difficult. 4 ' A high percentage of the portable 
radiation survey instruments were inoperable ; the 
offsite dosimeters in place before the accident could 
register only total radiation exposure over time 
and not hourly dose rates ; management of the util- 
ity's health physics program was inadequate. 47 
Evidence of the limited extent of offsite releases 
was developed by extrapolating from releases 
measured at the boundary of the plant site and by 
backcalculating from measurements of later off- 
site releases. 48 

6. There have been accidental releases of radia- 
tion since the accident, but the Investigation found 
no persuasive evidence that releases since the ac- 
cident resulted in adverse near-term physical 
health effects or will result in statistically signifi- 
cant adverse long-term physical health effects. 49 
The pending House-Senate conference report on 
the FY 1980 XRC Authorization Bill contains an 
amendment by this Committee directing the NRC 
and EPA to conduct a feasibility study on acquir- 
ing additional information for plant and cleanup 
personnel bearing on the incidence of any adverse 
long-term physical health effects from these 

7. An important issue in determining the sever- 
ity of the accident is whether the core was uncov- 
ered more than once on the first day of the acci- 
dent. If it was. the risk to the public was greater 
than realized at the time, and there was even 
greater reason to consider protective action. 50 

The President's Commission concluded that 
there was a second uncovering of the core in the 
afternoon of the first day, when the utility was 
attempting to depressurize the reactor coolant sys- 
tem. 51 However, the XRC Special Inquiry Group 
and the industry's Xuclear Safety Analysis Cen- 

"Pp. 108-109. "P. 100. "Pp. 113. 116. "P. 116. "P. 116. "Pp. 116-117, 124-127, 129-130. 

" P. 224. "P. 221. " P. 225. 

" See. for example, ''Population Dose and Health Impact of the Accident at the Three Mile Island Xnclear Station." 
Preliminary Estimates for the Period March 28, 1979 through April 7. 1979. XRC. XT'REG-0558. May 1979. pp. 60-63. 

** P. 45. " P. 44. " P. 44. P. 44. " Post-accident radiation releases have been less than those during 
the accident itself. See fn. 44. " For details, see p. 17 of "Findings and Conclusions." " P. 141. 


ter 52 have interpreted the evidence to show there 
was no second uncovering. 53 

The Subcommittee believes that the available 
evidence is insufficient to permit a final conclusion 
on whether the core was uncovered a second time. 
Further evidence to help resolve this issue may be- 
come available at such time as the core is removed. 


1. Effective emergency preparedness requires 
the assumption that serious accidents can happen 
and that adequate plans need to be made in ad- 
vance to deal with them. Such plans should be 
based on a realistic consideration of the range of 
potential accidents and must ensure that the re- 
sources and procedures necessary for dealing with 
such realistic contingencies will be readily avail- 

2. Prior to the accident at Three Mile Island, 
emergency response planning was based on the 
assumption that certain types of accidents those 
involving disruption of the core (designated as 
Class 9 accidents by the NRC) were so unlikely 
that they did not need to be covered by emergency 
plans. 54 Emergency planning was based on acci- 
dents considered most likely ones of short dura- 
tion that did not involve disruption of the core. 55 
Further, the focus was on accidents involving the 
failure of a single plant component, rather than on 
multiple failures (two or more components) such 
as occurred at TMI. 56 

3. Prior to 1975, the NRC did not anticipate 
playing an active emergency response role during 
an accident. The agency saw its role as simply 
monitoring the progress of an accident, using in- 
formation provided by the utility. The NRC as- 
sumed that an accident would be over before the 
agency had a chance to get actively involved. 57 

However, as a result of the duration of the fire 
at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in 1975 
and the agency's inadequate response the NRC 
reevaluated its role. 58 A consultant's study con- 
cluded that the NRC might need to take an active 
role in managing an accident, and that a prereq- 
uisite for that role would be the capacity to obtain 
information, independent of the utility, about 
plant conditions. The consultant recommended 
that the NRC install an independent remote system 
for monitoring plant conditions, tied directly to 
NRC headquarters. 59 

At the time of the TMI accident, the NRC had 

identified an active managerial role as desirable 
in the long-term, but had not installed the com- 
munications system fundamental to fulfilling such 
a role. 60 

4. The accident at Three Mile Island was unlike 
anything anticipated by the utility, the NRC or 
the State. 61 None was prepared for an accident of 
this nature and duration. 62 Events showed that the 
utility, the NRC and the State did not readily have 
available the resources essential for a proper re- 
sponse. 63 According to the statements and testi- 
mony of the participants in the crisis, a funda- 
mental reason for their lack of preparedness was 
conceptual : unduly narrow assumptions had been 
made as to the kinds of accidents to be antici- 
pated. 64 


Neither the utility nor the State's emer- 
gency plans contained procedures provid- 
ing for a continuous update of operational 
data or of changing conditions in the status 
of the reactor. 65 

The NRC had conducted no drills of more 
than a few hours duration at its Incident 
Response Center. 66 

The NRC's communications system pro- 
vided for only one line to the Regional Of- 
fice and did not cover direct contact be- 
tween NRC headquarters and the Unit 2 
control room; such contact was not estab- 
lished until about 4:30 p.m. on March 28, 
twelve and a half hours after the accident 
began. 67 

The NRC's regional emergency response 
plan allowed up to six hours after notifica- 
tion for the NRC to get its inspectors onsite, 
a further indication that the agency was un- 
prepared to take an active role onsite in a 
timely fashion. 68 

The State did not have enough technically 
qualified staff assigned to its emergency re- 
sponse organization. 69 

5. There also were severe deficiencies in the or- 
ganization and management of emergency re- 
sponse planning within and among the three 
organizations. These deficiencies went beyond 
problems caused by the unduly narrow assump- 
tions as to the kinds of accidents to be anticipated. 

Thus : 

The NRC headquarters and regional offices 
had produced several incomplete and in- 

82 Pp. 142-143. " Pp. 142-143. " Pp. 73, 75. " Pp. 83-84. M Pp. 73-75. " Pp. 83-84. " P. 82. * Pp. 
82-83. "P. 83. "Pp. 83-84. "Pp. 73-74, 83-84. ^ Pp. 74, 120-121, 130-131, 160. M Pp. 73-74, 83-84. 
" Pp. 134-135, 160. M Pp. 83-84. " Pp. 120-121, 131, 137. M Pp. 130-131. " P. 135. 


compatible plans defining emergency re- 
sponse. 70 
The Commissioners never met as a body the 

first day." 

XRC emergency response plans were vague 
about the Commissioners' role in an accident. The 
Commissioners were to make policy as needed, but 
that role was not defined with any specificity. This 
was particularly true with respect to directing the 
utility's response and to considering the need for 
evacuation or other protective action. 72 

There was no pre-planned coordination be- 
tween the Commissioners in their offices in Wash- 
ington, D.C. and the XRC emergency response cen- 
ter in Bethesda. Md. on the day of the accident, A 
system for briefing the Commissioners evolved on 
an ad hoc basis over the day. 73 

The utility's response was inadequate, par- 
ticularly with respect to management and com- 
munications. Statements by members of the 
utility's emergency command team indicate that 
many decisions during the first day were based 
upon incomplete information because they failed 
to share what they knew or believed about plant 
conditions. 74 

The Met Ed Emergency Plan provided no 
guidance about how to assess the condition of the 
plant during an accident. Further, it provided no 
system for internal plant communications; it 
merely delegated the responsibility for developing 
internal communications procedures to the Emer- 
gency Director. 75 

There was no procedure in the Emergency 
Plan for participation by the reactor-vendor, the 
XRC or the architect-engineer in assessing plant 
conditions. 78 

The State had two organizations with three 
emergency response plans covering accidents at 
nuclear power plants, each of which differed in 
significant respects and none of which conformed 
to the utility's plan. 77 

There was a lack of coordination among the 
utility, the XRC and the State in their emergency 
planning. 78 

Although the XRC had provisions for Fed- 
eral inter-ajjencv review of plans submitted volun- 
tarilv by the States for XRC concurrence, the 
XRC had not concurred in any of Pennsylvania's 
plans. 79 

The XRC, the utility and the State encoun- 
tered severe communications difficulties involving 
both the means of transmission and the quality of 
information transmitted. This is further evidence 
of insufficient joint emergency response planning. 80 

6. Under the Atomic Energy Act, the NEC has 
overall responsibility for the nealth and safety of 
the public with respect to the operation of nu- 
clear power plants. At the time of the accident, 
however, there was no NRC requirement mandat- 
ing that a State have an adequate emergency plan 
prior to XRC licensing of a facility; nor a re- 
quirement that the utility's plan be consistent with 
the State's plan. 81 



a. The responses of the utility, the XRC and the 
State to the accident were inadequate. 

b. Utility personnel, for the underlying reasons 
discussed in I.A.2 above, proved unable to diag- 
nose the accident correctly in time to prevent a 
serious situation. 82 They took incorrect actions, ag- 
gravating what began as a minor problem. 83 The 
utility did not communicate effectively within its 
organization or with the State and the NRC, par- 
ticularly with regard to the possible need for evac- 
uation or other protective action. 84 

The utility's outside communications were poor, 
leading Congressman Morris K. Udall to raise 
questions as to "Why on March 28 ... [govern- 
ment] officials and the public were denied impor- 
tant information" about plant conditions. 85 The 
XRC is still investigating this matter. The evi- 
dence reviewed by the Special Investigation does 
not confirm any intentional concealment of infor- 
mation by the utility on the first day of the 
accident. 86 

c. The XRC was unprepared for an accident of 
the duration and severity of that at TMI. It was 
unable, during the first day, to contribute effec- 
tively to either the diagnosis of the accident or to 
developing strategies for achieving stability at the 
plant. 87 It, too, was handicapped by highly defi- 
cient internal and external communications. 88 Fi- 
nally, at no point during the first day did the XRC 

70 For example, in the emergency response procedures drawn up by NRC headquarters, a role was not defined for 
the regional office in the integrated agency -wide response (see p. 80) ; the regional plan envisioned the regional office 
as the lead unit within the NRC and did not state how its response would relate to that of headquarters (see p. SO). 
The XRC's manual assigned the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation (NRR) specific responsibilities and called for 
the Office of Inspection and Enforcement (I&E) to define the implementing procedures for the entire agency's emergency 
response. (See p. 81.) Yet, the implementing procedures prepared by I&E did not include a role for NRR. During the 
accident. NRR and I&E had essentially separate emergency response teams (see pp. 157-158). 

"Pp. 119, 131. n Pp. 81-82. "Pp. 79, 131. "Pp. 116-117, 124-127, 138. 141. "P. 160. "P. 160. 

" Pp. 84-85. Pp. 84-86. P. 84. " Pp. HOff. n P. 84. Pp. 94-109. " Pp. 94-109. " Pp. 113ff. 

" Pp. 113-117, 138-141. M Pp. 138-141. " Pp. 145, 147-149. * Pp. 119-120, 127-128, 130-132, 137-138, 143, 145. 


give serious consideration to recommending pro- 
tective action. 89 

d. The State did not actively solicit the infor- 
mation it needed to make independent judgments 
about plant conditions. 90 Rather, it simply relied 
on incomplete and often inaccurate information 
supplied oy the utility. As a result, the State, 
which has primary responsibility for ordering pro- 
tective action, did not appreciate the serious need 
to consider such action. 91 

e. A review of all the responses discloses three 
basic deficiencies : 

Pre-accident emergency response planning 
was inadequate. 

Transmittal of information was badly mis- 

Failure to perceive the need for serious con- 
sideration of protective action was a major over- 


a. During most of the first day of the accident, 
plant operators and managers, 92 according to 
their statements, failed to diagnose the plant's con- 
dition in particular, the loss of core coolant dur- 
ing the initial hours, and the subsequent uncover- 
ing of, and severe damage to, the core. 93 Control 
room personnel did not systematically bring to- 
gether, review and track plant conditions. Such 
actions would have helped them in diagnosing the 
status of the reactor. 94 In some instances, they said 
they discounted plant behavior and indicators that 
suggested the core had been imcovered and dam- 
aged. 95 Their statements indicate that to the extent 
they discussed key symptoms or events, they did so 
without analyzing causes or possible conse- 
quences. 96 

These failures contributed to actions by control 
room personnel that led to a worsening of the ac- 
cident and that contributed to its duration. 

b. The actions of the plant operators and 
managers must be analyzed in the context of 
deficiencies in training, 97 control room design, 98 
instrumentation and equipment, 99 plant design, 100 
and emergency procedures, 101 as well as the stress 
and confusion produced by the crisis. 102 

c. One reason control room personnel failed to 
diagnose plant conditions correctly was that key 
readings of temperatures in the core were rejected. 
Instruments from which they had been taken the 

incore thermocouples, which provide core coolant 
temperatures were thought to be unreliable. 
Some thermocouples had failed, but others re- 
mained operational and were in fact giving the 
only direct and reliable readings of core tempera- 
tures. 103 The director of the utility's emergency 
command team said he was advised by the lead in- 
strumentation engineer that an initial set of five 
thermocouple readings indicated all the thermo- 
couples should be considered unreliable 104 advice 
which proved to be incorrect. 105 The team did not 
receive a subsequent set of readings taken from all 
52 thermocouples, although such information was 
available. 106 

Had plant operators and managers considered 
the thermocouples reliable, they would have had a 
clear signal that the core was or had been un- 
covered. The thermocouples also would have been 
useful in tracking the success of attempts to return 
the plant to a stable condition. 

Another important instrument, the movable in- 
core detector, also could have been used prior to 
severe core damage to help determine whether the 
core was covered and whether operating strategies 
were effective. Some utility personnel said they 
considered it to be a device for use by the reactor- 
vendor. 107 The instrument was not used the first 

d. According to accounts by control room per- 
sonnel, there were other instances in which they 
missed, misinterpreted or discounted critical in- 
formation 10S and in which critical information 
was not communicated to and among key person- 
nel, resulting in fragmentaion of information that 
impeded an effective response. 109 An example was 
the response to the hydrogen burn in the contain- 
ment at 1 :50 p.m. This burn was a symptom of 
uncovering of, and damage to, the core. There 
were several indicators of the burn, including 110 
An unusually high reading of containment 
pressure the "pressure spike" which ap- 
peared on a strip chart in the control room ; 
Automatic start-up of cooling sprays in the 

containment ; 
Automatic isolation of the containment, in 

response to the high pressure ; 
Automatic actuation of the high pressure 
injection system (a part of the Emergency 
Core Cooling System) ; and 
An unusual noise heard in the control room. 

" Pp. 119-120, 132-134, 146-147. * Pp. 121, 135-136. " Pp. 121, 135-136. 

K Four control room personnel were on duty when the accident began and were responsible for the utility's imme- 
diate response. They were joined by a supervisor and two engineers within minutes, and later by other engineering and 
supervisory personnel. At 8 a.m. the utility established an emergency command team, which included a representative 
of the reactor-vendor. These control room personnel made decisions for the first 12 hours. ( See p. 112. ) 

93 Pp 102-104, 120, 124-127, 129-130. M Pp. 99-109. 113-114, 141-143. "Pp. 113-114. 116-117, 124-127, 138-142. 

80 Pp. 113-114, 124-127, 138-142. " Pp. 73-76. * Pp. 56-64. " Pp. 65-66. 69-71, 94, 96, 99-101, 103, 104, 155. 

100 Pp. 96, 99-100, 125-126. *" P. 58. 102 Pp. 97-101, 105, 109, 117, 124-127, 138-140. m Pp. 116-117. 

104 Pp. 113-114, 116-117. 1<e Pp. 116-117. 1M P. 114. "" Pp. 74, 112. "" Pp. 117-118, 124-127. 1M Pp. 102- 
104, 124-127, 143-144, 151. " Pp. 138-141. 


Some control room personnel said they were 
unaware of any of the symptoms. 111 Those who 
said they were aware of most of the symptoms 
suggested that they had focused only on the pres- 
sure spike on the strip chart and that they had 
discounted it as an electrical malfunction. 112 Only 
one person said he concluded there had been a 
hydrogen burn. 113 Utility personnel maintained 
that they did not conclude the symptoms repre- 
sented cumulative evidence of a core that had 
been uncovered and damaged. 114 

e. As noted, the failure of the utility to transmit 
accurate information on plant conditions during 
the first day. particularly regarding the hydro- 
gen burn, has led to questions about whether the 
XRC. the State, and the public were denied im- 
portant information by the utility. 

The weight of the evidence does not support in- 
tentional concealment of information by the util- 
ity on the first clay of the accident. There are con- 
flicting statements as to whether the director of 
the utilitv's emergency command team was made 
aware of major evidence of uncovering of. and 
severe damage to. the core. 115 On balance, however, 
the evidence indicates that neither he nor other 
utility personnel deliberately withheld this infor- 
mation. In fact, the actions of these personnel 
during the first day of the accident indicate that, 
for all the underlying reasons discussed in I.A.2 
and I.D.2.b above, they did not know or fully 
understand the information available to them. 
They were unprepared for. and unable to respond 
effectively to. the emergency. 


a. The XRC's response during the critical hours 
of the first day was inadequate. The XRC did not 
contribute effectively to the utility's effort to diag- 
nose conditions at the plant, nor did it provide 
guidance to the utility. 116 Though responsible for 
public health and safety, the XRC did not ade- 
quately consider evacuation or other protective 
action, nor did it advise the State in this area. 117 
This was so even though on at least two occasions, 
key members of its emergency response organiza- 
tion expressed their belief that the core was or 
had been uncovered. 115 a situation clearly necessi- 
tating consideration of protective action. 119 

b. The XRC confined itself to monitoring events 
at the plant, relyine on the utility for data on 
plant conditions. 120 For most of the first day. the 

XRC was unable to carry out even this limited 
role effectively because it lacked accurate data. 111 
Information was frequently unavailable, incom- 
plete or garbled in transmission to both regional 
and headquarters staff and between the regional 
staff and headquarters, 112 

c. Xo representative of the XRC was in the con- 
trol room of the crippled reactor until 11 :30 a.m.. 
over seven hours after the accident began. 123 Even 
then, the XRC onsite team failed to obtain, assess 
and transmit in a timely fashion information 
on key aspects of plant conditions, including 
superheated steam in the hotlegs, 124 the utility's 
inability to depressurize to the point at which the 
decay heat removal system could be used. 125 and 
the symptoms of the nydrogen burn. 12 ' Both the 
onsite team and the regional office also failed to 
obtain in a timely fashion accurate information 
in response to specific requests from XRC head- 
quarters, including those for incore temperatures 
and for strategies being pursued by the utility. 117 

d. The activities of the onsite and offsite teams 
were poorly managed. 128 

The XRC. both on- and offsite. did not have a 
systematic method for asking pertinent questions 
of the utility or for following up on issues raised, 
especially about whether the core was covered. 129 

At XRC headquarters, there was little, if any, 
coordination among the components of the 
agency's Incident Response Center. 130 XRC head- 
quarters personnel who received important infor- 
mation did not systematically transmit it to de- 
cisionmakers at the Center or to the Commission- 
ers. 131 As with the utility, there was no effective 
means for assuring that each of the responsible 
decisionmakers received and understood signifi- 
cant information, such as indications of super- 
heated steam in the reactor and its implications. 132 

The XRC Commissioners exercised virtually no 
oversight of senior staff at the Response Center 
on the first day. 133 Their assumption had been that 
any possible accident would not be of sufficient 
duration to permit their active involvement, and 
they were not prepared for that role. 1 " 

e. The Acting Chairman, a member of the Com- 
mission since its inception, was unfamiliar with the 
XRC's emergency response organization and its 
responsibilities. 135 He served as Acting Chairman 
the first day because the Chairman, the most tech- 
nicallv qualified member of the Commission. 136 
was absent for personal reasons. 137 The remaining 
members of the Commission either were unaware 

'"P. 140. m P. 141. "P. 140. U4 Pp. 138-141. m Pp. 138-141. "P. 145. "'Pp. 133-135. 

Pp. 119-120, 145-148. "* Pp. 85-86. 133-135. "Pp. 137-138, 145-1 46. "Pp. 119ff. m Pp. 119. 127-128. 
131-132.137-138.143-144. 1=> Pp. 130-131. " Pp. 145-148. m Pp. 141-144. 147. M Pp. 138-141. "Pp. 128. 
137. 145. 159. '* Pp. 137. 140. 145-147. 160. Pp. 137. 140. 145-148. 160. "* Pp. 146. 157-159. m Pp. 145-148. 
" Pp. 145-148. m Pp. 150-151. " P. 151. m Pp. 133-135. 146-147. 

"Nuclear Regulatory Commiss'on Special Inquiry Group, Three Mile Island: A Report to the Commissioners and 
to the Public. Volume II. part 3. p. 933. 

m P. 119. 


of available information on the plant's condition 
or did not understand its significance. 138 One Com- 
missioner was told by an NRC staff member at 
9 a.m. that the core probably had been uncovered 
and that the state of the reactor was uncertain. 
Yet neither the Commissioner nor the staff mem- 
ber raised the issue of protective action. 139 

f . Information communicated by the NRC to the 
White House and other Federal agencies during 
the first day was incorrect and misleading. Dur- 
ing the afternoon, senior staff in the Center be- 
lieved that plant conditions were unstable, and 
they were concerned that the core was uncovered. 140 
Yet, during this same period, the Response Center 
informed the White House Situation Room and 
the Department of Health, Education, and Wel- 
fare that the utility was having no trouble keeping 
the core covered. 141 

This serious error, which has not been satisfac- 
torily explained, 142 served to preclude the Presi- 
dent and Federal officials from considering the 
need to mobilize Federal resources to assist the 
State and the NRC on the first day. 


a. The State's response was inadequate because 
of deficiencies in its plans, insufficient information, 
fragmentation and lack of resources, and poor 
management. 143 As a result, the State did not ap- 
preciate the serious need to consider evacuation or 
other protective action on the first day. 144 

b. The State's emergency plans led it to rely on 
the link between a State environmental agency 
the Bureau of Radiological Protection (BRP) 
and the utility for information about the plant. 145 
This made the State dependent on the utility for 
such information. 146 Furthermore, the BRP had 
only one technically qualified person familiar with 
plant operations, a nuclear engineer. He was fre- 
quently called away to brief the State's emergency 
management group, and thus was not available to 
request and to analyze information from the 
plant. 147 

c. The State's response to the accident was man- 
aged by a group of State officials that had been 
organized that day and that had not been desig- 
nated in any of its emergency response plans. This 
group failed to communicate information on the 

status of the reactor to either State or local 
agencies. 148 

d. The State is ultimately responsible for deter- 
mining whether protective action is necessary and, 
if so, for ordering and implementing it. 149 The 
principal reason the State did not not perceive the 
serious need to consider protective action on the 
first day is that it did not receive accurate informa- 
tion on the severity of the situation at the plant. 
The utility did not provide the ongoing informa- 
tion on plant conditions necessary to determine the 
need for protective action, and the State did not 
solicit it. 150 State officials saw their role as acquir- 
ing data on actual radiation releases that they 
deemed to be the determining factor as to whether 
protective action was needed. 151 


a. During the first 12 hours of the accident, a 
significant amount of information was mishandled, 
as a review of the responses of the utility, the 
NRC, and the State makes clear." 2 Accurate in- 
formation on the following plant conditions was 
lost at one or more points in the chain of com- 
munications : 

Lack of natural circulation ; 153 
Superheated steam in the reactor; 154 
Concern that the core was uncovered ; 155 
The correct set point for decay heat removal 

system ; 15e 

Hotleg temperatures ; 157 
Incore temperatures ; 158 
Symptoms of the hydrogen burn ; 159 and 
Strategies being pursued by the utility to 

stabilize the reactor. 160 

Information was lost within the utility, 161 be- 
tween the utility and the State, 162 between the 
utility and the NRC's regional office, 163 between 
the utility and NRC headquarters, 164 between the 
utility and NRC onsite representatives, 165 between 
NRC onsite representatives and the regional 
office, 166 between the regional office and head- 
quarters, 167 between members of the headquarters 
senior staff, 168 between senior staff and the Com- 
missioners, 169 and between senior staff and other 
Federal agencies. 170 

b. As predicted in the consultant's study follow- 
ing the Browns Ferry fire, one reason the NRC lost 
information was that it had not established a com- 

138 Pp. 131ff. 
M Pp. 135-136. 

189 Pp. 119-120. 140 Pp. 145-148. 
145 Pp. 84, 1 22. 1W Pp. 84-86, 135-136. 
151 Pp. 85-86, 135. 1K Pp. 113ff. 

'P. 149. ""P. 149. '"Pp. 84-85, 121-123, 135-136. 
"' Pp. 135-136. '" Pp. 121-123. "' Pp. 135-136, 159. 

' Pp 135, 159 1M Pp. 85-86, 135. "* Pp. 113ff. ira Pp. 120. 131, 143-144. I54 Pp. 114, 124-127, 142, 145-148. 
'Pp 114 116 120, 126. 128-129. 132, 145. IS6 P. 129. "'Pp. 119, 132. 137-138. '" Pp. 113-114, 116-117, 137. 
145. '"Pp. 138-141. ""Pp. 127-128, 137. lel Pp. 113-114, 116-118. 124-125. 127, 138-140. 142. "" Pp. 121, 
135, 159. 16S Pp. 118, 120, 127, 130-132, 145. IM Pp. 143, 145. '" Pp. 129, 138-140. "* Pp. 137, 140. '" Pp. 119, 
131-132, 137, 145. 1M Pp. 132-133, 146. 1<l9 Pp. 119, 133-134. " Pp. 120, 149. 


munications system independent of the licensee. 1 " 
The XRC did not heed prior recommendations for 
direct "hotlines" to operating reactors and for 
direct transmission of plant data offsite. 172 

c. The accident demonstrated, however, that 
adequate communications technology' will not of 
itself ensure proper transmission of information. 
In the afternoon, senior XRC officials were ques- 
tioning whether the core was uncovered. 173 When 
they finally obtained a direct link to the control 
room at Unit 2, a senior XRC staff member com- 
municated his concern only to an XRC inspector 
in the control room. He did not pursue the ques- 
tion directly with the utility personnel. Xor did 
he ask the inspector to pursue the matter with the 
utility. 174 despite a suggestion from the Acting 
XRC' Chairman that he do so. 175 

d. Implicit in the consultant's recommendation 
that the XRC improve its communications system 
was a recognition of the limits on human perform- 
ance imposed by stressful conditions. Statements 
by utility operators and managers suggest that 
their confusion and anxiety under stressful condi- 
tions was an important factor contributing to the 
loss of information and failure in commu- 
nications. 1715 

e. Control room personnel were uncertain of the 
status of the reactor for a prolonged period on 
the first dav of the accident. This uncertainty was 
itself a "plant condition'' that should have been 
clearly communicated to the State and the XRC 
and used as a factor in determining the need for 
protective action. 


a. On the rlav of the accident, the emergency 
plans of the utility. 177 the XRC 178 and the State, 179 
as well as the Environmental Protection Agency's 
(EPA) Manual of Protective Action Guides, 180 
were inadequate or incomplete regarding either: 

1) factors to be weighed in projecting dose 
rates so that adequate consideration could be 
given to the need for evacuation or other pro- 
tective action: 

2) information that a utility was required 
to communicate to the XRC. the State and the 
public during the accident. 

b. The actions of the utility, the XRC and the 
State on the first day indicate that, in determining 
the need for protective action, they relied too 
heavily on the radiation dose levels specified in the 
EPA Protective Action Guides. 181 Xone ade- 
quatelv focused on plant conditions including 
uncertainty as key factors in projecting doses for 

determining whether action was needed to protect 
the surrounding community. 182 

c. The EPA has legal responsibility for pro- 
viding guidelines to the States and utilities on 
protective action. Therefore, it must shoulder some 
responsibility for inadequacies in protective ac- 
tion decisionmaking during the accident. 

The 1975 version of the EPA Manual makes one 
ambiguous reference to plant conditions as a fac- 
tor to be used in projecting doses, without specify- 
ing their importance. 183 A January 1979 revision 
of the Manual (and a further revision made fol- 
lowing the accident) make plant conditions a cru- 
cial element in formulating projected doses, but 
still do not define the term "plant conditions." 184 
The various versions of the Manual also fail to 
specify any role for the XRC and do not provide 
guidance to the States and utilities as to how de- 
cisions on protective action are to be reached in 
the event there is uncertainty as to what is oc- 
curring at the plant. 185 

d. Although the EPA guidelines were ambigu- 
ous and incomplete, it should be stressed that even 
in the absence of any guidelines, the utility, the 
XRC and the State nevertheless should have given 
great weight to plant conditions, particularly the 
uncertainty about uncovering of the core, as being 
a determining factor in considering the need for 
evacuation or other protective action. 

The utility was remiss in not clearly communi- 
cating its uncertainty on the morning of the first 
day to the XRC and the State. At the same time, 
the XRC and the State were remiss in failing to 
pursue effectively with the utility the issue of 
plant conditions, including most particularly its 
uncertainty about whether the core was uncovered. 

Statements by members of the utility's emer- 
gency command team indicate that some of them 
were uncertain about whether the core was un- 
covered at 8 :30 a.m. on the first day of the acci- 
dent. It is unclear from statements by the team 
leader responsible for recommending protective 
action as to whether he was among those who were 
uncertain during this period. Two weeks after the 
accident, he said: "Based on the instruments we 
had, we didn't know if the core was covered." 18S 
Subsequently, he said: "... I didn't believe the 
core was uncovered, but I listened to people in my 
group looking for double assurance." 18T 

e. If the utility official responsible for recom- 
mending protective action had properly under- 
stood his role, as defined by the EPA Manual 
and the utility's emergencv plan, and if he had been 
substantiallv uncertain, based upon plant condi- 
tions at 8:30 a.m., about whether the core was 

171 Pp. 82-83. m Pp. 82-83. m Pp. 145-148. " 4 P. 147. 
79. 136. 160. " Pp. 79-82. ' Pp. 84-85. ** Pp. 134-135. 
86. '" Pp. 85-86. '* Pp. 85-86. '"P. 114. " P. 129. 

P. 146. 
' Pp. 133-136. 

'Pp. 126-130. 132. 137-139. '"Pp. 
m Pp. 85-86. 134-135. 1B Pp. 85- 


uncovered, he then should have advised State offi- 
cials that the condition of the plant at that time 
warranted consideration of a possible precaution- 
ary evacuation of the population within a close 
proximity of the plant. 



a. Three Mile Island was not the first nuclear 
facility to experience the conditions that occurred 
in the early stages of the March 28, 1979 accident. 
Important information had been available to the 
reactor-designer of TMI and to the NRC on minor 
accidents at two other plants Oconee in South 
Carolina and Davis-Besse in Ohio 188 that were 
similar to the beginning of the TMI accident. 

b. Both the reactor-vendor, Babcock & Wilcox 
(B&W), and the NRC had programs for evaluat- 
ing and acting upon individual problems occur- 
ring at nuclear power plants. However, the 
responses of the reactor-vendor and the NRC to 
these similar accidents suggest that neither had 
procedures to assure an effective systematic review 
and analysis of potentially recurring problems. 189 
For these reasons, TMI control room personnel 
did not have the benefit of analysis and guidance, 
based on similar accidents, that would have helped 
them in diagnosing and responding correctly to 
the earlv events of the accident on March 28. 190 

The deficiencies in industry and NRC programs 
for evaluating and acting on operating experience 
at nuclear power plants were among the most 
important inadequacies in the nuclear safety pro- 
gram brought to light by the accident. 

2. AT TMI-2 

a. Plant behavior during two incidents in the 
early testing and operating history of TMI Unit 
2 was similar to plant behavior that TMI control 
room personnel failed to understand during the 
earlv hours of March 28. 191 

The first occurred in 1977 during "hot functional 
testing" of the plant. 192 Steam collected in the 
hotlegs of the reactor's primary coolant system, 
causing the water level in the pressurizer to in- 
crease as pressure in the system decreased. Details 
of this earlier event apparently had not been com- 

municated to the operators on duty during the 
early hours of the March 28, 1979 accident. They 
neither recognized nor understood similar condi- 
tions on the day of the March 28, 1979 accident. 193 

The second incident occurred on March 29, 1978. 
A temporary loss of power to an electrical con- 
trol system caused the pilot-operated relief valve 
(PORV) to open, allowing water to escape from 
the primary coolant system. The operators on duty 
did not know the valve was open because there 
was no indicator of its position in the control 
room. 194 

Subsequently, the utility installed a command- 
type indicator that would show whether an elec- 
trical signal was being sent to open the valve, but 
it did not show the valve's actual position. The 
operators stated that this type of indicator was 
less desirable than the one they had requested to 
show actual position directly. 195 

During the March 28. 1979 accident, plant per- 
sonnel did not realize for more than two hours 
that the PORV was stuck open. One reason was 
that the operators took the absence of the light in- 
dicating a command to open the valve as evidence 
that the PORV was closed. 196 

b. Two other aspects of the operating experi- 
ence of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island plant con- 
tributed to the failure of plant operators and 
managers to diagnose the early symptoms of the 
accident correctly. 

First, it was known by plant personnel that one 
or more of the valves on top of the pressurizer 
had been leaking coolant water for more than six 
months. Because of the leakage, the temperature 
readings for the discharge line leading from the 
valve were abnormally high during normal oper- 
ations. 197 Statements of control room personnel 
indicated they had become accustomed to these ele- 
vated temperature readings. 198 

During the early hours of the accident on 
March 28, temperature readings in the line rose 
even higher after the PORV opened. When the 
valve stuck open, they remained at a higher tem- 
perature than the operators were accustomed to. 
Nevertheless, control room personnel were misled 
by the anticipated "normal" high readings and 
by their knowledge that the PORV had lifted 
briefly. They, therefore, failed to recognize that 
the readings during the accident were indicating 

'* Pp. 76-77. 

* In assessing a fine of $100,000 against the reactor-vendor, the XRC ". . . concluded that B&W did not have an 
effective system for collection, review and evaluation, and reporting of important safety information." (Letter from 
Victor Stello, Jr., Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to J. H. MacMillan, Babcock & Wilcox. re : "Notice of Noncompli- 
ance," April 10, 1980.) In response, B&W denied the charges, but paid the fine. (Letter from IX K Gilbert. Babcock & 
Wilcox. to Victor Stello. Jr., Nuclear Regulatory Commission, re : "Notice of Noncompliance," May 20. 1980.) 

'* Pp. 77-78. 07. 101. m Pp. 65-66. m P. 65. '" P. 97. "" P. 66. '" P. 66. '" Pp. 94, 155. 

'" Usually, high temperatures indicate the valve has opened. Sustained high temperatures indicate that it is stuck 
open or that there is a slow leak. 

"" Pp. 108, 156-157. 


a continuing and significant loss of coolant 
through the stuck-open PORV. 1 * 9 

Had the utility closed the block valve, as re- 
quired by the plant's Technical Specifications, the 
loss-of-coolant accident through the stuck-open 
PORV would not have occurred. Had the utility 
corrected the PORV leakage, the operators would 
have been in a better position to determine that 
the elevated temperature readings indicated a Loss 
of Coolant Accident. 

Second, although high pressure injection 
(HPI) is designed to actuate under loss-of- 
coolant conditions, there was a history at TMI-2 
of actuation in response to relatively routine 
problems in the secondary system. 200 Plant per- 
sonnel had become accustomed to initiation of 
HPI in response to these less significant incidents. 
On March 28 they throttled HPI before de- 
termining whether there was a loss-of-coolant 
accident. 201 



1. The recovery process at Three Mile Island 
will take place in two stages: (a) cleanup of the 
radioactive debris from the accident and (b) final 
disposition of the plant- either refurbishing it as 
a nuclear or coal facility or permanently decom- 
missioning it. 202 The Special Investigation ad- 
dressed principally the cleanup, since discussion 
of the future of the facility can be only specula- 
tive at this time. 

2. Cleanup is a large, potentially hazardous and 
technically difficult task. I^arse quantities of 
radioactive gases and water within the contain- 
ment must be removed, as must damaged fuel and 
other contaminated material in the reactor vessel. 
All the radioactive waste must be disposed of. 

3. Cleanup is not. however, simply a technical 
task. It involves many other factors. Financial, 
social and legal issues were addressed by the Spe- 
cial Investigation. All have a bearing on cleanup 

4. The damaged plant at Three Mile Island 
must be decontaminated. 77<??r and irhen. however, 
are still unresolved. 

The timing of the various steps of cleanup 
poses a dilemma. It is desirable to follow de- 
liberate procedures providing for review of al- 

ternatives, for orderly decisionmaking and for 
public participation. 103 Yet as time passes, there 
is an increasing chance of accidental releases of 
radioactivity to the environment 204 and perhaps 
even of renewed fissioning (recriticality) of the 
damaged reactor core. 205 At present, the plant's 
condition is not fully known. Further deteriora- 
tion can be assumed. Damaged and unmaintained 
equipment may fail, and there is the potential for 
human error.*"* 

Both the surrounding community and, most im- 
mediately, the workers involved in cleanup are at 
risk. 207 These workers will continue to be exposed 
to radiation as long as the plant remains contami- 
nated. 206 The hazard to them of accidental overex- 
posure will be present as long as areas of high 
radiation are widespread. 209 As noted, the pending 
House-Senate conference report on the FY 1980 
XRC Authorization Bill contains an amendment 
by this Committee directing the XRC and EPA 
to conduct a feasibility study on acquiring addi- 
tional information for plant and cleanup person- 
nel bearing on the incidence of any adverse 
long-term physical health effects from these 


1. The technical aspects of the cleanup at Three 
Mile Island present unprecedented challenges. For 
example, certain problems require the develop- 
ment of new equipment and techniques. 210 The 
most difficult of these is removing and disposing 
of the damaged core. 211 

However, measurements of samples from inside 
the containment building indicate that some an- 
ticipated technical difficulties in the cleanup, such 
as the amount of radioactive cesium on the inner 
walls of the containment building, will not be 
as extensive as feared, thus simplifying some as- 
pects of the overall task. 212 Recently, on the other 
hand, the unsuccessful first attempt to enter the 
containment (the access door was stuck) raises 
the question of whether unforeseen problems, in- 
cluding corrosion, will make decontamination 
more difficult. 

Similar problems have been solved in cleanups 
of other nuclear accidents in this country and 
abroad. 213 But there are differences. First, the 
cleanup problems at TMI are of a larger scale than 
ever experienced in the commercial nuclear power 
program. 214 Moreover, at TMI. unlike with those 

"Pp. 71. 10v "P. 72. "Pp. 72. 96. * Pp. 188. 190. " Pp. 163. 205. 206. "* Pp. 164. 166. 

105 An XRC report assessed the ways in which recriticality might occur and what the consequences would he. The 
report found that the most likely radiological consequence of recriticality would be increased dose rates inside the con- 
tainment and that offsite consequences probably would be non-existent. Hence, the XRC found that the risk is to the 
workers. See also pp. 165. 166. 

"* If many years pass before appreciable cleanup progress is made, the chance of accidents, including recriticality. 
accumulates, since there will be rouphly 1.800 workers onsite. all capable of human error that could trigger such 
accidents. S>e also pp. 164. ivT,. 

*" Pp. 166-167. 175-177. " P. 176. " P. 163. *" Pp. 168. 187-188. nl Pp. 168, 175. 187. M P. 186. 

111 Pp. 219-226. * Pp. 169. 221. 


prior accidents, private rather than governmental 
entities bear primary responsibility for accom- 
plishing the cleanup task. 215 Finally, the TMI 
cleanup is taking place within the context of re- 
cent environmental review requirements, including 
those for public hearings. 216 

More than one year after the accident, many un- 
certainties remain over the future course of clean- 
up. As late as early June 1980, the utility had not 
yet entered the containment in order to conduct 
a more detailed evaluation. 217 


1. General Public Utilities Corporation (GPU) 
and its three subsidiary utility companies face 
financial problems as a result of the accident, as 
evidenced by the sharply decreased value of GPU 
common stock and by the downgraded bond 
ratings given the utilities. 218 

A major expense has been the purchase of re- 
placement power. The three GPU subsidiary com- 
panies Metropolitan Edison Company (Met Ed) . 
Jersey Central Power & Light Company (Jersey 
Central) and Pennsylvania Electric Company 
(PENELEC) have had to purchase electric 
power to replace the output previously provided 
by the damaged Unit 2 and by Unit 1, which has 
not been operating since the accident. 219 Replace- 
ment power costs ranged from $20 to over $,35 mil- 
lion per month during 1979. 220 The utilities lack in- 
surance to cover this expense and have requested 
and received considerable rate increases from the 
public utility regulatory agencies in Pennsylvania 
and New Jersey to help cover these costs. 221 

GPU has estimated that costs of cleanup alone 
will total at least $200 million. One manage- 
ment consultant has said that the final figure could 
be $500 million or more. 222 The utilities have $300 
million in property damage insurance to offset 
part or all of the cleanup cost. 223 

The Pennsylvania and New Jersey public util- 
ity regulatory agencies have removed the capital 
and operating costs associated with Unit 2 from 
the utilities' rate basis. 224 Thus, the utilities' cus- 
tomers are not paying for cleanup costs. 225 

2. To cover immediate expenses, the utilities 
have borrowed substantial sums from a con- 
sortium of banks. 226 GPU and bank officials as 
well as officials from the Securities and Exchange 
Commission all have stated that Met Ed's con- 

tinued solvency may depend on favorable rulings 
by the State public utility regulators. 227 

Utility regulators in Pennsylvania and New 
Jersey have acknowledged the importance of their 
actions. 228 Thus far, they have indicated their in- 
tention to provide the rate relief needed to help 
preserve the financial viability of the three utili- 
ties. 229 In its May 23, 1980 decision, the Pennsyl- 
vania Public Utility Commission stated that it 
was providing Met Ed an "adequate framework" 
for financial recovery and that it was up to Met 
Ed to convince bank creditors that it had "the will 
and the ability to rehabilitate itself." 23 

3. Given the financial situation, New Jersey 
utility regulators are considering alternatives to 
Jersey Central's existing operations. 231 For the 
same reason, Pennsylvania utility regulators con- 
sidered withdrawing Met Ed's certificate of pub- 
lic convenience (its franchise to serve the 
public) , 232 but in May 1980 decided that the public 
welfare would not be well-served by modifying 
or revoking it. 233 At the same time, they affirmed 
their authority to reconsider the issue. 234 

4. The financial future of the GPU companies 
also will be affected by an ongoing NRC regula- 
tory proceeding to determine whether TMT Unit 1 
will be returned to service. 235 Its resolution will 
affect the extent to which the utilities must con- 
tinue to purchase and require rate relief to 
cover replacement power and whether the capi- 
tal and operating costs of Unit 1 may be returned 
to the utilities' rate bases. 23 " Hearings are not 
likely to begin before the fall of 1980, and no firm 
date for a final decision has been set. 237 

5. There have been few instances of bankruptcy 
proceedings involving major electric utilities. The 
GPU companies' financial condition, however, has 
raised this possibility. 238 

An SEC official stated that, as a practical mat- 
ter, a utility providing electric power to the pub- 
lic would not be closed down. 239 GPU stated that 
Met Ed's bankruptcy would not be in the parent 
company's best interest. 240 Banks similarly testi- 
fied that bankruptcy was not in the lenders' 
interest. 241 

6. The three operating utilities and their cor- 
porate parent, GPU, acknowledged their obliga- 
tion to clean up the TMI site. 242 However, they 
declined to make a firm, blanket commitment to 
do so without regard to future circumstances, par- 
ticularly bankruptcy of Met Ed. 243 

m Pp. 168. 221. "'Pp. 163, 202-207. ! " P. 
' Pp. 191, 193, 212-216. "'P. 190. K 'P. 191. 


'P. 190. 

'Pp. 190-191, 194, 212. 

'P. 190. 

Ki In April and Mav 1980. the two state public utility commissions also removed the Unit 1 capital and operating costs 
from the utilities' rate bases ; see p. 191, fn. 93, and pp. 212-216. 

Ki Pp. 191, 212-213, 215. 
193, 214. 2 "Pp. 215-216. 

1 Pp. 191-192. 
a Pp. 214-215. 

'" Pp. 192-193. 
:3a Pp. 214-215. 

' Pp. 193. 214-216. m Pp. 193, 214-216. !M Pp. 
M4 P. 215. *"Pp. 194, 212. 2M Pp. 194, 212. 

237 Pp. 194, 212. 

a 'Pp. 193. 194, 214, 216: see letter from Grant G. Guthrie, Division of Corporate Legislation. SEC, to Jonathan 
Cottin, TMI Special Investigation Staff, November 2. 1979. 

"* P. 194. P. 194. *' P. 194. M P. 195, fn. 105. J4> Pp. 194-195. 


Bankruptcy of Met Ed could further complicate 
cleanup. 244 Yet, the XRC only recently acknowl- 
edged the need to prepare plans for this contin- 
gency. 245 According to the testimony of XRC 
officials, the agency has the necessary legal au- 
thority to assume that responsibility. 246 However, 
they also stated that the agency had manpower 
resources only to manage cleanup activities, not to 
man all of the equipment. 247 


1. Concerns of the communities surrounding 
TMI have complicated cleanup. Many residents 
and local officials have expressed strong distrust 
of the utility and the XRC and have questioned 
the ability of those two organizations to manage 
the cleanup and to be candid in discussing prob- 
lems and risks. 248 

Some of this distrust and anxiety is attributable 
to events during the March 28 accident and to the 
cleanup, including several reported accidental 
radiological releases. 249 Another factor is the fail- 
ure of the XRC and the utility to agree on a defini- 
tive cleanup plan and the continuing attention 
TMI has received from the media and survey- 
takers. 250 In addition, there have been complaints 
that the XRC and the utilities failed to notify lo- 
cal officials of planned cleanup activities. 251 

2. The XRC and the utility have been unsuc- 
cessful in their efforts to increase public confidence. 
In late 1979. XRC and utility officials began hold- 
ing biweekly public meetings so that cleanup 
plans could be discussed and residents could ask 
questions. 252 In addition, once the XRC decided 
to prepare an environmental impact statement, 
the agency held public meetings to discuss the 
scope of this document. 253 By early February 
1980. the XRC also set up a permanent office in 
Middletown to keep in closer touch with events at 
the site and local concerns. 254 

Yet in late February, an XRC task force on 
cleanup concluded that segments of the commu- 
nity continued to have strong feelings of fear and 
anxiety. 255 The task force suggested that the 
agency consider funding a citizen's advisory 
group. 256 

Early in April, some citizens became upset with 
an XRC staff recommendation to vent the krypton 
in the containment building. 257 Governor Richard 
Thornburgh asked the Union of Concerned Scien- 
tists, a group opposed to nuclear power, to review 
the XRC staff recommendations, 258 reflecting an 
attempt to find a technically competent third party 
whose recommendations concerning cleanup would 

be accepted by those who remained distrustful of 
the XRC and the utility. 259 Following review of 
a number of independent studies, including the 
Union of Concerned Scientists' study, the Gov- 
ernor decided to support the XRC if it should 
decide to vent the krypton. 260 

Opposition to cleanup is by no means unani- 
mous, however. Some local citizens are critical of 
the vocal opponents of cleanup and are anxious 
to proceed promptly with the cleanup steps pro- 
posed thus far so that the process can be expe- 
ditiously completed. 261 


1. The legal and regulatory procedures appli- 
cable to the cleanup effort at TMI are intended 
to assure reasonable decisions through considera- 
tion of all relevant factors and viewpoints. How- 
ever, the process results in cleanup proceeding at 
a deliberate pace. This creates a dilemma. The 
longer it takes to remove the radioactivity from 
inside the plant, the more likely it is that further 
accidental releases of radioactivity will occur be- 
fore workers can repair or remove deteriorating 
equipment. Although the XRC has limited au- 
thority to act before the completion of the de- 
liberate process, that authority does not completely 
resolve the dilemma. 

2. Cleanup is taking place within the framework 
of legal and regulatory procedures. The XRC. 
aided by public comments, is preparing a compre- 
hensive environmental impact statement, which 
will set forth a range of alternatives for accom- 
plishing cleanup and will consider their environ- 
mental effects. 262 In addition, separate environ- 
mental assessments have been prepared by the 
XRC, and circulated for public comment, to assess 
whether certain specific cleanup steps thus far 
proposed would have significant adverse environ- 
mental consequences. 263 

The XRC is also reviewing proposed modifica- 
tions to the Unit 2 license. Its procedures provide 
for formal hearings involving the licensee and 
parties who may be affected by the modifica- 
tions. 264 At issue will be : (a) whether the proposed 
modifications are necessary and sufficient for the 
maintenance of the facility and for the protection 
of public health and safety: and (b) whether they 
would significantly affect the quality of the en- 
vironment. 265 

The various procedures are intended to afford 
orderlv decisionmaking that provides an oppor- 
tunity for some form of input from interested 
parties, including members of the public, particu- 

'Pp. 194-195. 

' Pp. 197-198. 

'P. 201. ""P. 201. 

1 P. 208. 

J "P. 196. ""P. 196. M 'P. 196. 
151 Pp. 197-199. '"P. 198. "P. 198. 

"P. 201. '"P. 200. 

148 Pp. 196-200. ""Pp. 197-198. and fn. 114. p. 198. 
** P. 198. " P. 199. ** P. 198. " Pp. 199-200. 
Pp. 201. 204-205. 

'Pp. 201-204, 205-207. "*P. 208. 


larly on environmental matters. 266 They alsjo a^e 
intended to help resolve differences among the 
parties involved in or affected by .cleanup. These 
decisionmaking processes are by nature delibera- 
tive and extend the time required for reaching 
final decisions. 

3. Legal and regulatory procedures do not 
necessarily prevent the NRC from taking immedi- 
ate action that otherwise would await an environ- 
mental review. Both the NRC and the Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) have agreed that 
if there is an "emergency circumstance," the NRC 
is authorized to take prompt, specific action even 
before completion of the comprehensive environ- 
mental impact statement. 

In non-emergency situations, the NRC. but not 
necessarily CEQ, maintains that the NRC may 
take prompt, specific action before completion of 
the impact statement when necessary to protect 
public health and safety and so long as an assess- 
ment has been made, with public comment, that the 
particular action will not have a significant ad- 
verse environmental impact. 267 

Any differences between the two agencies should 
be resolved promptly on what may be done in non- 

4. In October 1979 the NRC authorized prompt 
use of EPICOR-II to clean radioactive water in 
the auxiliary building based on the NRC's finding 
that such action was necessary to protect public 
health and safety and would have no significant 
adverse environmental impact. The CEQ, con- 
curred but only after concluding that there was an 
"emergency circumstance." 268 

In June 1980, the NRC authorized prompt vent- 
ing of the containment, finding that it was in the 
best interest of public health and safety, would not 
have a significant adverse environmental impact, 
and would not limit the choice of reasonable alter- 
natives for future cleanup steps. In those circum- 
stances, CEQ concluded the action would not vio- 
late applicable Federal Regulations. 

5. The investigation found problems relating to 
the NRC's planning and management of cleanup 
that cannot be attributed to the deliberate pace 
of legal and regulatory procedures. 

In early November 1979, some seven months 
after the accident, the NRC had not formulated 
new and specific regulatory guidelines to govern 
radiological releases during cleanup activities ; nor 

had it permitted the licensee to follow the existing 
' regulations, which applied to normal plant oper- 
ations. 269 Certain cleanup steps thus were reviewed 
on a case-by-case basis without any clear indica- 
tion of what radiological releases, if any, would 
be acceptable. 270 

In addition, even though the issue had been 
raised within two months of the accident, the NRC 
took until November 21 to decide whether to pre- 
pare a programmatic environmental impact state- 
ment, losing many months of valuable time. 
Finally, at Subcommittee hearings in early No- 
vember, NRC officials offered no specific schedules 
for how long cleanup would or should take to 
complete. 271 

More than three months later, problems in these 
areas persisted. In late February 1980, the NRC 
Special Task Force concluded that interim cri- 
teria were needed to permit radiation releases 
associated with plant maintenance and data- 
gathering activities because, lacking any criteria 
whatsover, NRC staff had tended to submit for 
prior approval by the Commissioners every 
cleanup proposal that did not meet a "zero re- 
lease" requirement. 272 The task force also found 
that although completion of the environmental 
impact statement was an important milestone in 
the cleanup, the staff still was not clear as to how 
the Commissioners intended to use the state- 
ment. 273 Finally, the task force found that cleanup 
schedules were needed, noting that over the 
months both the NRC and the licensee had begun 
giving less priority to developing and implement- 
ing cleanup plans. 274 

Based on the task force's recommendations, in- 
terim criteria for releases finally were prepared. As 
of May 1980, however, the NRC still had to deter- 
mine how and by whom major cleanup decisions 
would be made after the environmental impact 
statement is completed. The Commission also still 
had to determine the role this statement would play 
in making these important decisions. 275 The Com- 
mission had to decide, for example, whether the 
agency will insist on those cleanup proposals that 
are believed to have the smallest adverse environ- 
mental impact, whether it will set explicit regu- 
latory guidelines to govern radiological release 
during cleanup and who will have authority to 
give final approval to proposed steps as cleanup 
proceeds. These are decisions that must be made. 

""Pp. 19S, 202. 205-208. 
169-170. Pp. 169-171. 

*"Pp. 203. 206. "'Pp. 203. 207. M9 Pp. 169-170. 
ln Pp. 171, 204. m P. 171. ** Pp. 171, 204. 

'Pp. 169-170, 206. 



Chapter 3 

How The Plant Works 



Reactor Coolant 
Pumps (4) 

\\ Steam Generators (2) 


Reactor Vessel 

Adaptation from, Babcock & Wilcox diagram 
The nuclear steam supply system at Unit 2, Three Mile Island 


Chapter 3 

How The Plant Works 


To understand how a nuclear powerplant 
works, two important points should be kept in 

First, a nuclear plant is very similar to a con- 
ventional coal- or oil-fired powerplant. In both, 
water is heated to produce steam. The steam turns 
a turbine that drives a generator to produce elec- 
tricity. Each type of plant has a large, elaborate 
plumbing system to heat the water, carry steam to 
the turbine, condense the steam back into water, 
and then return the water to the source of heat 
similar to the way plumbing in a house carries 
heated water from a furnace to the radiators and 
back to the furnace for reheating and recirculation 
to the radiators. 

Second, a nuclear powerplant is very different 
from a non-nuclear plant in certain essential fea- 
tures. The plumbing in a nuclear plant serves as a 
safety system that is not needed in a fossil-fueled 

plant. Nuclear fuel is a ceramic made from ura- 
nium, a metal, that produces much more intense 
heat than does fossil fuel. It must be kept covered 
by rapidly moving water, or coolant, that removes 
the heat and keeps the temperature of the fuel 
below its melting point. Molten nuclear fuel has 
the potential to penetrate a plant's structure and 
foundation and to cause hazardous offsite releases 
of radioactivity. Even after a nuclear plant is shut 
down, the fuel produces considerable heat enough 
to melt the fuel and must be cooled for a sub- 
stantial period by circulating water. 

The plumbing in a nuclear plant, therefore, pro- 
vides a series of redundant safety systems to ensure 
that the fuel is constantly covered with water. Fos- 
sil fuel does not continue to produce large amounts 
of heat after the fire is stopped and, therefore, does 
not require this kind of cooling. 


The Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Station 
has two nuclear realtors, Unit 1 and Unit 2, each 
capable of delivering about 880 million watts 
(880 megawatts) of electricity, enough to serve a 
city of nearly 2 million people. 

Each reactor is a pressurized-water type, mean- 
ing that pressure within the reactor and the pipes 
leading to and from it is kept high at about 2.200 
pounds per square inch. By maintaining this high 
pressure, water running through the reactor is 
prevented from boiling at the usual boiling point 
of 212 Fahrenheit. This permits the water to be 
heated to much higher temperatures and still be 
kept in a liquid state without steam bubbles. This, 
in turn, permits the plant to produce steam far 
more efficiently than if the water were to boil at 
normal, atmospheric pressure. (Another type of 

reactor, the boiling water reactor, is less pressur- 
ized 1,000 psi and produces steam directly from 
the boiling water in the reactor.) 


The reactor is the heart of any nuclear power- 
plant. At Three Mile Island Unit 2, the reactor is 
housed inside a massive, domed structure known as 
a containment building* also referred to as the 
reactor building. This structure, rising 193 feet 
above the Susquehanna, has steel-lined, reinforced 
concrete walls almost two feet thick. The contain- 
ment provides the final line of defense against 
escape of high levels of radioactivity from inside 
the reactor. The containment building also holds 
some of the major elements of the plant's nuclear 


5U-058 0-80-3 














steam supply system a massive array of pipes, 
pumps, tanks and valves for circulating coolant 
through the reactor, and a pair of steam gener- 
ators, each one a 73-foot tall cigar-shaped struc- 
ture in which steam to drive the turbine is pro- 
duced. In addition, the containment building 
houses portions of the Emergency Core Cooling 
System (ECCS), which ensures an adequate sup- 
ply of water to the nuclear fuel in the event of an 

The containment is but one of several buildings 
and structures that comprise Unit 2. Only one 
building is shared by the two TMI units the fuel 
handling building, where relatively non-radio- 
active fresh fuel is stored without shielding before 
being loaded into the two reactors. It is also where, 
after being removed from the reactors, the highly 

radioactive spent fuel is stored in steel-lined 
"swimming pools'* beneath 40 feet of water. 

Unit 2 has an auxiliary building where large 
pipes, pumps, tanks and filters help to maintain 
the level and purity of the water flowing through 
the nuclear steam supply system in the adjacent 
containment building. This building also contains 
portions of the Emergency Core Cooling System. 

There also is a turbine building where the main 
steam line from the steam generators in the con- 
tainment connects with the turbine to drive the 
electricity-producing generator. Here the steam 
is also cooled and condensed into water and the 
water purified of minerals before being returned 
to the steam generators in the containment 

Outside the Unit 2 turbine building stands a 





Adapted from: The Report of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Islar 

Schematic of principal system* and components, Unit 2 

pair of 350-foot tall cooling towers the now- 
familiar hyperboloid structures from which 
plumes of vapor rise, a product of the process of 
condensing the steam that has passed through the 

Finally, there is the control building in which 
the control room, the nerve center of each plant, is 
located. It is from here that operators monitor 
and control the operations of vital plant equip- 
ment to ensure that heat is being removed effec- 
tively from the reactor. 


The reactor is a nuclear furnace in which ura- 
nium fuel gives off intense heat, leading to fuel 
temperatures of as much as 3.250 F under normal 

operating conditions. The heat is produced by 
nuclear fission, the same splitting of uranium 
atoms in a chain reaction that takes place in nu- 
clear weapons and that has been known to exist in 
nature. But it happens at a slower, controlled 
rate in nuclear powerplante. so that it is impos- 
sible for them to experience nuclear explosions. 
This is partly because the reactor's fuel is in a 
dilute form known as low-enriched uranium. Even 
in the worst conceivable accident, there cannot be 
an atomic explosion. 

The reactor in the TMI-2 plant has several com- 
ponent parts. It is encased in a 36-foot high tank 
with steel walls nearly nine inches thick. This tank, 
known as the reactor vessel, is in turn encased by 
9 l /2 feet of steel and concrete in the form of two 
separate shields. The top of the vessel, the reactor 


head, is removable to allow for refueling. The re- 
actor vessel and its shielding provide the inter- 
mediate line of defense against radioactive releases 
from the fuel inside the reactor core. 


The core at TMI-2 holds almost 100 tons of 
uranium within 177 fuel assemblies. Each fuel as- 
sembly holds 208 fuels rods thin, 12-foot-long 
metal tubes containing the uranium fuel. The fuel 
inside the rods is a compressed powder known as 
uranium oxide that is molded into ceramic fuel 
pellets. Each pellet is about an inch long and less 
than half an inch wide ; they are stacked inside the 
fuel rods, which, in turn, are grouped into the fuel 
assemblies. In all, there are 36,816 fuels rods in 
the reactor core. 

The fuel rods, which are made of an alloy of 
the metal zirconium, known as Zircaloy, serve 
three purposes. First, they provide the initial line 
of defense against the potential release of hazard- 
ous radioactive materials, known as fission prod- 
ucts, that form in the uranium fuel when the 

Reactor Head 

Control Rods and 
Control Guide Tubes 



Fuel Assembly 
(Includes Fuel Rod) 

Fuel Pellets 
in Fuel Rod 

Guide Tube 

Fuel Rod 


Pathways for 
Incore Instrumentation 

Fuel Assembly 

Reactor Vessel and Core 
(vessel filled with coolant) 

Adapted from: Babcock & Wilcox 


Adapted from: Babcock & Wilcox 

reactor is operating. The products are contained 
within the Zircaloy walls, or cladding. 

Second, the Zircaloy cladding permits the almost 
unobstructed passage of atomic particles called 

neutrons, which, when jettisoned in the splitting of 
uranium atoms, strike other atoms, causing them 
to split apart the so-called chain reaction. 

Finally, the fuel rods promote the transfer of 
heat from the fuel to the coolant water being 
pumped through the core. 

The nuclear fission process inside the reactor is 
controlled by the insertion of control rods into the 
fuel assemblies and by the addition of boron into 
the coolant. The control rods are long tubes shaped 
like the fuel rods. They contain materials that 
absorb neutrons. These materials, known as 
"poisons" include indium and cadmium. 

During normal, full-power operations, the con- 
trol rods are withdrawn from the core. The rate 
of the chain reaction is then controlled by boron 
in the coolant, the amount of which can be ad- 
justed. Boron, too. absorbs neutrons. 

During an accident, or any sequence of events 
that seriously interferes with the normal removal 
of heat from the core, the control rods will auto- 
matically drop all the way into the core, thereby 
"tripping" the reactor and instantaneously termi- 
nating the chain reaction. This, in turn, stops 
most of the heat generation by the core, although 
considerable heat, called decay heat, remains. 


Normally, a nuclear powerplant operates with 
marvelous precision on a massive scale. Water 
flows through the core at a rate of 92,400 gallons 
a minute, pushed by four reactor coolant pumps 
each five stories high and 9,000 horsepower. Under 
normal operating conditions the water is heated to 
nearly 600F and is subjected to some 150 atmos- 
pheres of pressure (2.200 pounds per square inch, 
equivalent to pressures nearly a mile deep in the 
ocean). The water leaves the reactor through two 
pipes, each three feet in diameter, known as the 
''Kotlegs*' 1 One hotleg leads to steam generator A 
the so-called "A loop" the other to steam generator 
B. the "B loop" This system for circulating water 
through the core is known as the primary system. 


Pressure in the primary system is maintained 
and fine-tuned by a 42-foot-high tank known as the 
l>f< xxur'izer. In some ways, the pressurizer is like an 
expansion tank in a home hot water heating sys- 
tem: it provides a place for water in a closed 
plumbing system to collect when it expands after 
being heated. An expansion tank, however, is a 
passive device that simply collects excess water, 
whereas the pressurizer actively controls pressure 
in the primary system. 

The pressurizer at TMI-2 normally holds 800 
cubic feet of water, on top of which is a cushion, 

Relief Valve (PORV) 

Block Valve 

Code Safety Valves 


Steam Bubble 

-Normal Water Level 


Water Inlet 

The Pressurizer 

Adapted from: Nuclear Safety Analysis Center 

or "&M&&&," of 700 cubic feet of steam. Pressure is 
controlled in the rest of the system by expanding 
and contracting the steam bubble, which pushes 
against the primary system water at the bottom 
of the tank. The bubble is expanded by means of 
heaters in the tank that produce more steam, in- 
creasing pressure ; or it is diminished by means of 
sprays that condense some of the steam into water, 
thereby lowering pressure. 

If the bubble is lost while the reactor is operat- 
ing, it is extremely difficult to control pressure 
in the primary system. Sudden increases in pres- 
sure could damage the primary system or break 
primary piping, since there would be no bubble 
serving as a buffer. The bubble can be lost if too 
much water gets into the pressurizer. Operators 


are trained to avoid having the pressurizer "go 
solid," as a pressurizer full of water is called. 

If pressure in the reactor rises so rapidly that 
the pressurizer sprays cannot counteract it, a re- 
lief valve at the top of the pressurizer, known as 
the pilot-operated relief valve, or PORV, opens 
automatically. Steam is released through a dis- 
charge line that leads to a reactor coolant drain 
tank on the floor of the containment. The PORV 
is designed to close automatically as pressure in 
the primary system returns to normal. 

There is a back-up safety system that comes 
into play if additional pressure must be relieved, 
or if the PORV fails to open or has been "isolated" 
by a block valve because it is leaking. This system 
involves what are known as code safety valves. 
They open automatically on high pressure and 
close automnticallv as normal pressure is restored. 
Unlike the PORV, the code safety valves cannot 
be isolated, thpt is. blocked on command from the 
control room. They are intended to serve as the 
final line of defense against excessive pressure in 
the primary system. 


Under normal operating conditions at TMI-2, 
the heated, pressurized water in the A and B 
primary loops passes through the hotlegs. which 
have "candy c<z7)e"-shaped curves at their high 
point, and then enters the corresponding A and B 
steam generators. 

This water transfers some of its heat to cooler 
water that enters the steam generators from a 
separate closed system the feedwater system on 
the secondary side of the plant. The water on 
the primary side, which is radioactive, passes 
through the steam generators in a series of long, 
narrow tubes, around which the non-radioactive 
secondary system water flows. The radioactive 
primary system water leaves the bottom of the 
steam generators via pipes known as "coldlegs"' 
and is pumped back into the reactor for reheating 
and recirculation to the steam generators. 


The non-radioactive water in the steam genera- 
tor boils and turns to steam after being heated by 
radioactive coolant water from the reactor. The 
non-radioactive steam leaves the steam generators 
through the main steam lines and travels out of 
the containment and into the turbine building, 
where it enters the turbine. The turbine drives the 
generator, which produces electricity. Steam from 
the turbine enters a condenser, where it is con- 
densed into water. A condensate pump then pushes 
this water through a condensate polisher unit that 
purifies it in a manner similar to the way a home 
water-softener works. 

A condensate booster pump then moves the 
purified water to the main feedwater pump that, in 
turn, pushes the water back into the secondary 
side of the steam generator, where it is boiled into 
steam again for recycling to the turbine. 


The condenser is cooled by water from yet 
another closed system. This water, which absorbs 
heat from the steam in the condenser, is pumped 
from the condenser to the cooling towers. There it 
cascades down a series of steps, giving up heat 
which appears as vapor clouds rising into the 
sky. This vapor is not radioactiA^e. 

Water from the cooling towers is pumped back 
to the condenser, where the cycle is repeated. 


TMI 2, like other pressurized water reactors, 
has elaborate and redundant safety systems on 
both the secondary and primary sides of plant to 
assure adequate cooling of the core. 


On the secondary side, a loss of feedwater to the 
steam generators is a potentially serious problem 
because the steam generators soon would run dry, 
thus eliminating the principal means of removing 
heat from the primary system. This, in turn, would 
cause temperature and pressure in the core and 
elsewhere in the primary system to rise rapidly. 

In the event of a loss of feedwater caused by a 
broken pipe, failed pump or other malfunction on 
the secondary side of the plant, there is a set of 
emergency feedwater pumps that can provide an 
alternative supply of water from a condensate 
storage tank. 

However, the emergency feedwater pumps can 
be overriden by shutting a set of valves known as 
the "No. 12 valves" that block the flow from these 
pumps to the steam generators. Inexplicably, these 
valves were closed at TMI at the start of the ac- 
cident on March 28, 1979. 

In the event the flow of feedwater to the 
steam generators cannot be maintained, then the 
supply of steam to the turbine cannot be main- 
tained either. The turbine will automatically react 
to this problem when the feedwater pumps trip. 
The turbine will then trip that is, shut down 
to avoid damage. 

On the primary side, if conditions depart suffi- 
ciently from the norm, the reactor will automati- 
cally trip by dropping its control rods all the way 
into the core, thus terminating the chain reaction. 
This is also known as a "scram" 



The sudden increase in temperature and pres- 
sure prior to the scram may cause the PORV to 
open briefly, but, as noted, it is designed to close 
as pressure drops back to normal. If the PORV 
should remain open without being detected by con- 
trol room personnel, as it did at the start of the 
TMT accident, then the primary system will lose 
coolant through the pressurizer a potentially 
serious "small '-break" in the system, resulting in 
a I oss-of -coolant accident (LOG A). If sufficient 
coolant were lost without being replenished, the 
core could become uncovered, and severe damage 
could result, including melting of the fuel. 

Again, there is a safety system the plant's 
Emergency Core Cooling System. It consists of 
several back-up safety subsystems designed to 
compensate for small-break LOCAs, such as leak- 
age through the pressurizer, or even for a large- 
break loss-of -cool ant accident, such as a rupture 
of the three-foot-wide coldleg or hotleg pipes. 


In the event of a small break in the primary sys- 
tem, additional coolant is provided by the auto- 
matic start-up of the high pressure injection 
( HPI) *>i*tfm. It uses the make-up pumps, located 
in the auxiliary building, that are normally used 
to replenish the primary system through the high 
pressure injection of berated water into the cold- 
legs. The source of this additional water is the 
Borated Water Storage Tank. This emergency sys- 
tem operates when pressure in the primary system 
is high, the case with small-break loss-of-coolant 
accidents, in which little pressure is lost because, 
as the name implies, the break is small. 


In the event of a large break in a coolant pipe, 
pressure would drop so low that the high pressure 
injection system would be supplemented by other 

parts of the Emergency Core Cooling System. 
Core -flood tanks directly above the reactor would 
dump thousands of gallons of coolant directly into 
the reactor vessel. They drop their water onto the 
core as soon as reactor pressure drops below 600 

As pressure drops further, a low pressure in- 
jection (LPI) system (not shown in the figure), 
also drawing from the Borated Water Storage 
Tank, provides coolant at a much higher rate. 

If the supply of water in the tank is depleted, 
water may be drawn from the containment sump, 
where water flowing out the break will collect. 


After a reactor scram, residual or decay heat 
must continue to be removed from the core. This is 
the heat generated by the radioactive decay of 
fission products in the nuclear fuel even after the 
chain reaction has been halted. This decay heat is 
substantial substantial enough to melt the fuel if 
the core is not kept covered with coolant water. 
But it diminishes rapidly at a steady rate over a 
period of several hours to a relatively low level, but 
still substantial amount, of heat. 

With the Emergency Core Cooling System keep- 
ing the core covered, plant operators work to bring 
primary system temperature and pressure down bj- 
removing heat through the steam generators. 
When temperature is reduced to about 300F and 
pressure to about 400 psi, low pressure injection 
pumps would be used to circulate coolant. In this 
case, the coolant goes not to the steam generators, 
but to a separate heat exchanger located outside the 
containment. The LPI pumps (when used in this 
manner), the heat exchangers, and the piping are 
known as the decay heat removal system. This sys- 
tem permits temperature to be lowered below the 
boiling point of 212F to about 120F and 
depressurization to atmospheric pressure. At that 
point the plant is in a stable state known as cold 
sh utdown. 


Chapter 4 

How The Accident Happened: 
A Mechanical Summary 



I I Primary Water 

Secondary Water 

I I Steam 

FA \ Steam/Hydrogen 

Steam generator 

Return to 
reactor vessel 

Loop A Loop B 

1. Coolant throughout the primary system; core completely covered. 


relief valve (PORV) 
^x~ Block valve 

r*.-^l Primary Water 

Secondary Water 

I I Steam 

I." J Steam/Hydrogen 

Loop A Loop B 

2. Coo/ant lost through the stuck-open PORV; decreased pressure caused coolant to boil; reactor coolant 
pumps had to be turned off; saturated steam rose out of coolant; core barely covered with coolant. 

(Continued on page 36) 


Chapter 4 

How The Accident Happened: 
A Mechanical Summary 


The nuclear accident at Unit 2 of Three Mile 
Island liegan 36 seconds after 4 a.m. on March 28, 
1979. when all the outlet valves on the condensate 
water polishing system closed, tripping the feed- 
water pumps. This, in turn, stopped the flow of 
water to the steam generators on the secondary 
side of the plant. At that point, the turbine tripped. 
The emergency feedwater pumps activated auto- 
matically to maintain flow to the steam generators, 
but. inexplicably, the valves were closed between 
the pumps and the steam generators, blocking the 
flow. As a result, no water on the secondary side 
could reach the steam generators. 1 

All this occurred in the first seconds. Heat in the 
reactor vessel and the rest of the primary system 
began to increase, causing a rapid rise in pressure 
in the primary system. This, in turn, caused the 
pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) on the pres- 
surizer to lift. Pressure continued to rise. Very soon 
the reactor tripped, and the control rods fell into 
position between the fuel rods. Pressure in the 
primary system began to fall as less heat was 
generated in the reactor. The accident was still 
only seconds old. 


The PORV failed to close, as designed, when 
the pressure dropped. Steam and water continued 
to flow, undetected, out of the pressurizer. 

Pressure in the primary system continued to fall 
as the volume of coolant contracted from the loss 
of heat and as coolant escaped through the stuck- 
open PORV. 

A Io5?-of-coolant accident (LOCA) was under- 
way. It went undetected because control room per- 
sonnel did not realize the PORV was stuck open. 

Two minutes into the accident, the high pres- 
sure injection system (HPI), an emergency sys- 

tem designed to compensate for a loss of coolant, 
automatically started pumping water into the re- 
actor vessel at 1,000 gallons per minute. Mean- 
while, the pressurizer was filling with water. In 
response, operators severely throttled this flow to 
avoid overfilling the pressurizer. 

The limited amount of water flowing into the 
primary system was inadequate to replace the 
amount being lost through the PORV a poten- 
tially dangerous loss of coolant if not corrected. 


Within minutes, as a result of the loss of pres- 
sure in the primary system, the coolant began to 
boil, causing saturated steam to form in the cool- 
ant. At about one hour into the accident, the reac- 
tor coolant pumps that circulate the water through 
the primary system began vibrating because they 
were beginning to pump the steam-water mixture 
produced by the boiling. At about 114 hours, two 
were turned off to prevent damage; the last two 
were turned off at 1% hours into the accident. 


For the first 1% hours, control room personnel 
struggled to understand what was happening in 
the plant. Hundreds of alarms went off, signaling 
such things as unusual conditions in the reactor 
coolant drain tank, high temperature and pressure 
in the containment building, and low pressure in 
the primary system. The conditions that developed 
were beyond those that control room personnel had 
experienced in their training or in their operation 
of the plant. The symptoms described in the emer- 
gency procedures did not exactly fit the situation 
and proved of little help. 

1 Eight minutes later an operator opened the valves after discovering they were shut. 


- Pilot-operated 
relief valve (PORV) 

- Block valve 

I I Primary Water 

BB Secondary Water 

I I Steam 

I " J Steam/Hydrogen 

Loop A 

Loop B 

3. Core becoming uncovered, exposed fuel heating up; steam in system became superheated. 


relief valve (PORV) 

Block valve 

l"~~l Primary Water 

BB Secondary Water 

I I Steam 

rr 7 ! Steam/Hydrogen 

Loop A 

Loop B 

4. Core uncovering continuing; temperatures in core hot enough that hydrogen was generated as a result 
of a chemical reaction betiveen superheated steam and the Zircdloy fuel cladding ; hydrogen and 
superheated steam collecting in hotlegs. 



Around 5 :45 a.m.. very soon after the shutdown 
of the last two reactor coolant pumps, the core 
became uncovered. The uncovering of the core oc- 
curred because, with the pumps off, steam gener- 
ated by the boiling in the core rose to the higher 
portions of the reactor vessel and the rest of the 
primary system, while water continued to escape 
from the kuck-open PORV and while the HPI 
remained throttled. Water level fell below the top 
of the core. 

Over the next half hour, the water level fell 
further until the top two-thirds of the core was 
exposed. Fuel rods crumbled. Hydrogen was pro- 

duced as steam reacted chemically with the Zirc- 
aloy fuel cladding. Fission products escaped from 
the failed fuel into the coolant of the primary 

Plant operators and managers still did not 
realize the core was uncovered. They were unaware 
of the stuck-open PORV. and they had no direct 
means of measuring the level of water in the core. 

Finally, at about 6:20 a.m.. a shift supervisor 
who had arrived in the control room about a half 
hour earlier realized the PORV was stuck open. 
He ordered that a backup valve, the block valve, be 
closed. It was. and the loss of coolant was 'stopped. 


At 6:45 a.m.. a site emergency was declared, 
based on radiation levels inside the plant. At 7 :24 
a.m.. a general emergency was declared, based on 
the potential for offsite radioactive releases. The 
utility notified State and Federal officials when it 
declared the site and general emergencies. 

Shortly before 7 :30, flow from the high pressure 
injection system was increased. The core was even- 

tually covered again. But steam and hydrogen gas 
had become trapped in the hotlegs of the primary 
system, blocking circulation of water through the 

By this time, three and a half hours into the 
accident, most of the damage to the core had been 
done, and radiation levels in the plant were high. 


For the rest of the day, control room personnel 
struggled to regain stability in the plant. The prin- 
cipal problem was to ensure a reliable flow of water 
through the core. In the morning hours, they first 
tried to repressurize the system in order to collapse 
what they believed to be saturated steam bubbles in 
the system. The blockage was actually caused by a 
mixture of superheated steam and hydrogen, 
neither of which could have been condensed into 
the coolant. 

With the failure of repressurization, concern 
arose over whether the core was covered and 
whether the limited supply of HPI water available 
would become exhausted. These uncertainties led to 
the next strategy depressurization of the primary 
system. Utility personnel reasoned that lower 
pressure would activate the core flood tanks, which 
would dump more water onto the core, assuring 
that it would be covered. 


At about 11 :30 a.m. the block valve was opened, 
allowing steam and gas once again to escape from 
the pressurizer. Pressure dropped. The core flood 

tanks eventually dumped water onto the core, but 
only a limited amount* Some control room person- 
nel interpreted this to mean the core was covered ; 
others concluded that the core had never been 

Confident the core was covered, at 1 :10 p.m. 
plant operators and managers halted depressuri- 


About 40 minutes later, two members of the 
emergency command team decided to depressurize 
again in the hope of reaching a low enough level of 
pressure to permit use of the low pressure decay 
heat removal system. As the block valve was 
opened, there was an extremely sharp increase in 
pressure and temperature in the containment, ac- 
companied by activation of the containment 
sprays. This happened when hydrogen in the con- 
tainment ignited. The hydrogen which had been 
generated by a chemical reaction between the 
cladding of the fuel and the steam, burned only a 
few seconds. 

Depressurization again was unsuccessful. For 
reasons still not definitey understood, pressure in 


the primary system could not be lowered to the 
point at which the decay heat removal system 
could be initiated. During this time, the core may 
have been uncovered again. 


Finally, about 5 :30 p.m., utility executives off- 
site ordered the emergency command team to re- 
pressurize the system again. The objective was to 
collapse enough steam in the primary system to 
permit the restart of a reactor coolant pump. This 

time the strategy worked. At 7 :50 p.m., relatively 
stable conditions were achieved as the pump 
started circulating water through most of the core 
and the rest of the primary system. 

All the damage to the core occurred on the first 
day. More crises followed, with discovery of the 
damage to the core on the third day and the ensu- 
ing uncertainty caused by the now-famous hydro- 
gen bubble. 

Finally, several days later, natural circulation 
in the primary system was finally achieved. 



Following is a brief chronology of the major events of the accident during the first day : 
Brief chronology of events? March 28, 1979 Brief chronology of events,* March 28, 1979 

Elapsed time 
since the acci- 
Clock time dent began Event 

4:00 a.m-.- 00:00:00 


4:02 a.m. 
4:05 a.m. 
4:06 a.m. 




4:08 a.m.- 00:07:29 

Do.. . 00:08:18 

4:11 a.m 00:11:00 

4:15 a.m.. . 00:15:00 

Lost of feedwater. 

Initiated the accident ; emergency 
feedwater system starts but 
fails to supply the steam gen- 
erators because of closed 

Turbine shuts off. 

Automatic upon loss of feed- 

PORV opens. 

Relieved high primary system 
pressure; provides path for 
loss of coolant. 

Control rods drop. 
Stops fission process, but decay 
heat still must be removed. 

PORV fails to reclose. 

Mechanical failure of the valve 
resulting in continued loss of 
primary coolant; plant per- 
sonnel do not realize valve is 
still open. 

High pressure injection initiated. 
Automatic upon low primary sys- 
tem pressure. 

High pressure injection throttled 1 . 
Throttled back to maintain con- 
stant pressurizer level. 

Saturation conditions in primary 

First steam bubbles form in the 

primary system. 

Pumps start sending water to aux- 
iliary building. 

Automatic with high water level 
in the containment sump; 
water only slightly contami- 

Emergency feedwater valves opened. 
Plant personnel notice closed 

valves; opened to initiate flow 

to steam generators. 

High containment sump level 

Abnormal amounts of water pres- 
ent in containment. 

Reactor coolant drain tank rup- 

Flow from PORV ruptures tank; 
water spills onto containment 

Elapsed time 
since the acd- 
Clock time dent began Event 

4:20 a-m 00:20:00 

4:38a.m 00:38:00 

5:14 a.m__ 
5:41 a.m.. 


5:45a.m . 01:45:00 


7:20 a.m- 
7:24 a-m- 



7:56 a.m . 03:56:00 

8:26 a.m 04:26:00 

9:15 a.m . 05:15:00 

11:38 a.m 07:38:00 

12:41 p.m 08:41:00 

Abnormal neutron flux behavior. 
Instruments measuring neutron 

flux begins reading abnormally 

Pumps that send water to auxiliary 

building shut off. 
Water retained in containment 

sump after about 8,000 gallons 

of slightly radioactive water 

pumped to the auxiliary 


| Reactor coottant pumps turned off. 

Essentially, flow through the core 

Initial core uncovering begins. 

Water level drops and heat re- 
moval is diminished; fuel 
damage results. 

Block valve for PORV closed. 

Loss of coolant halted. 

Site emergency declared. 

Because of high radiation; NRC 
and State officials notified. 

High pressure injection increased. 

Operators initiate increased high 
pressure injection flow. 

General emergency declared. 

Because of high radiation; NRC 
and State officials notified; off- 
site radiation monitoring teams 

Containment automatically isolated. 

High containment pressure initi- 
ates automatic isolation to 
prevent radiation release. 

Sustained high pressure injection. 

From this time on, high pressure 
injection is continuously main- 
tained, at varying flow rates, 
after having been turned off 
altogether for about 5 minutes. 

Initial repressurization. 

Attempt to collapse vapor bub- 
bles in the system and establish 
natural circulation. 


Operators open PORV block 
valve to reduce pressure and 
inject water from core flood 
tanks to assure themselves that 
core is covered. 

Core flood tanks initiated. 

Little water injected; plant per- 
sonnel believe that this indi- 
cates core is covered. 

1 Footnote at the end of table. 

1 Footnote at the end of table. 


Brief chronology of events, 1 March 28, 1979 

Brief chronology of events? March 28, 1979 

Elapsed time 
since the acci- 
Clock time dent began Event 

1:10 p.m. 09:10:00 

1:50 p.m.-. 09:50:00 

Depressurization halted. 

Convinced core covered, plant 
personnel close the PORV 
block valve, halting further 

Second depressurization and con- 
tainment pressure "spike." 

Operators open the PORV block 
valve to depressurize to allow 
use of the decay heat removal 
system. Simultaneously, a con- 
tainment pressure spike occurs 
because of the combustion of 
hydrogen in the containment. 

Elapsed time 
since the acci- 
Clock time dent began Event 

3:08 p.m... 11:08:00 

5:20 p.m... 13:20:00 

7:50 p.m... 15:50:00 

Depressurization ends. 

Operators close PORV valve, 
ending attempts to depressur- 
ize further. They failed to 
reach pressure for decay heat 
removal system. 


Attempt to collapse vapor bub- 
bles and establish forced cir- 
culation using reactor coolant 

Reactor coolant pump started. 

Forced circulation through core 
and relatively stable plant 
conditions established. 

1 All times are approximate. 


Chapter 5 

Radiation Effects And Monitoring 


5-4-358 O-80-i* 

Helicopter monitoring radiation releases during March 28, 1979 accident 


Chapter 5 

Radiation Effects And Monitoring 

The foremost concern in the event of an acci^ 
dent at a nuclear power plant is the amount of 
radioactive material that may escape and its ad- 

verse health effects on plant workers and the sur- 
rounding population. 



All life is constantly exposed to natural and 
manmade radiation that is transmitted in such 
common forms as risible and invisible (infrared} 
light, radion-ares and microwaves. X-rays and 
cosmic rays. There are two types of radiation 
the "non-ionizing" type, as produced by micro- 
wave ovens, and the "ionizing" type, as produced 
by radioactive materials such as those used and 
produced by nuclear power plants. 

Radiation, in its passage through matter, can 
activate atoms to generate heat but still leave the 
basic structure of the atoms unaltered in the 
process. This is characteristic of non-ionizing 
radiation. Ionizing radiation, on the other hand, 
can alter the atomic structure by knocking a nega- 
tively charged electron from an atom, leaving 
behind a positively charged atom known as an 
"ion" hence the name "ionizing radiation." These 
ions can be produced in molecules found in the cells 
of living tissue. Since normally functioning cells 
depend on a delicate electro-chemical balance, the 
presence of ions within cells can cause harm to the 
body. As described below, the extent of cellular 
damage and bodily harm depends on the tvpe of 
ionizing radiation and the amount absorbed by the 

Radioactive materials such as uranium produce 
two basic types of ionizing radiation : one in the 
form of atomic particles (alpha and beta parti- 
cles} . known as particulate radiation ; the other in 
the form of electromagnetic energy (gamma rays 
and X-rays} . known as electromagnetic radiation. 


The comparatively heavier alpha particles 
travel only a few inches in the air and cannot pene- 

trate the skin. However, they are hazardous if the 
radioactive material producing alpha particles is 
breathed or eaten. Then these particles can cause 
intense damage to nearby cells. 

The smaller, lighter beta particles are more 
penetrating, travel greater distances and can pene- 
trate the upper layers of the skin. 

Gamma and X-rays take the form of energy 
moving at the speed of light. Gamma rays are 
more energetic than X-rays and can penetrate 
deeper; they can be used to take "photographs" 
through such relatively impenetrable material as 
steel. Gamma rays and X-rays, unlike alpha and 
beta particles, can penetrate the body from outside 
and damage tissue deep within the body. 


Radioactive materials emit one or more types 
of radioactive particles or energy over various 
periods of time, eventually losing their radioac- 
tivity. The overall rate of decay of these materials 
into non-radioactive forms is measured in terms of 
the half-life of the material that is, the amount 
of time it takes one-half of the atoms in the mate- 
rial to decay and become non-radioactive. 

At a nuclear power plant, a large number of 
radioactive materials are produced by the fission- 
ing of the uranium in the nuclear fuel. The half- 
lives of these "-fission products" range from sec- 
onds to hundreds of millions of years. These prod- 
ucts in turn produce alpha and beta particles, 
gamma rays and X-rays. 


Ionizing radiation can be quantified using sev- 
eral different units of measure. 


The curie describes the amount of radioactivity 
in a given amount of material such as a nuclear 
core. A release of some of that material would be 
measured as a certain number of curies. Subunits 
are the microcurie one-millionth of a curie, and a 
picocurie a trillionth of a curie. 

The roentgen indicates the amount of X-rays or 
gamma rays that will ionize a certain amount of 

A more general, but similar unit, the rod, is the 
dose of any type of radiation (X-rays, alpha par- 
ticles, etc.) that delivers a fixed amount of energy ' 
to some material (such as tissue, air, etc.). 

The rem is a more useful measure of dose for 
those concerned with health effects. It takes into 
account the different biological damage done by 
different kinds of radiation. One rad of alpha 
radiation may result in a dose equivalent to 10 rem, 
whereas one rad of X-rays to the same tissue could 
result in a dose equivalent to only one rem. The 
rem allows the health effects of radiation releases 
to be estimated more easily and the health effects 
of different releases to be compared. 

Because the rem is a larger dose than normally 

occurs in routine exposure to radiation, dose equiv- 
alents are generally expressed in millirems 
(mrem), or thousandths of a rem. 

The rate at which exposure to radiation occurs 
is expressed as the dose rate per hour. A person 
receiving a dose of 100 mrem over a period of one 
hour is receiving a dose rate of 100 mrem/hr. An- 
other unit of dose rate is rads/hr. If a release in- 
volves different types of radiation producing doses 
of varying amounts of millirems per hour, the 
total dose rate would be the sum of various dose 

The sum of the individual doses received by 
each member of a certain group or population 
within a specific area is called the collective dose. 
It is expressed in person-reins. A thousand people, 
each exposed to one rem, would have a collective 
dose of 1,000 person-rems. 

Another measure is the cumulative dose. This is 
the total dose an individual or group receives over 
a certain period. An individual who is exposed to 
a dose rate of one rem/hr for five hours will amass 
a cumulative dose of 5 rems. 



Because the monitoring of offsite releases in the 
early stages of the accident was inadequate, it has 
been difficult to determine the total amount of 
radioactive material released, especially on the 
first day. and to determine the exposure of the 
surrounding population. About 50 percent of the 
portable radiation survey instruments were in- 
operable. 1 Only a limited number of fixed instru- 
ments (3) were in place before the accident oc- 
curred, and thev measured only total radiation ex- 
posure, rather than dose rates. (4) Both factors 
made it difficult for health phvsics personnel to 
ascertain the rate of offsite radiation doses. (These 
are important for projecting future doses of radia- 
tion and for determining the need for evacuation or 
other protective action.) Finally, offsite measure- 
ments were not taken until about 8 :30 a.m.* 

Some of these problems can be traced to inade- 
quacies in the management of the health physics 
program at TMI. The N"RC Special Inquiry 

Group noted gaps in the radiation protection or- 
ganization and stated that plant management and 
operations staff regarded radiation protection as 
a "necessarv evil." (5) The Special Investigation 
found, as did the NRC Special Inquiry Group, 
that on several occasions the utility transmitted 
incorrect or misleading information on the radia- 
tion levels measured by monitoring teams. 4 


For the above reasons, the exact exposure of the 
population to radiation during the entire accident 
is uncertain. Nevertheless, several groups have 
developed estimates that are consistent. 

The Ad Hoc Interagency Dose Assessment 
Group, comprised of scientists from the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission. Environmental Protec- 
tion Agency, Food and Drug Administration and 
the Center for Disease Control, estimated that the 
dose to the entire population within 50 miles of the 
plant was between 1.600 and 5.300 person-rein, 

1 Radiation imparts some of its energy to the medium with which it interacts. One rad equals 100 ergs of energy 
delivered to one gram of material. The amount of radioactivity that produces one rad varies according to the type of 

2 The XRC found that only about half the portable radiation dose rate monitors (58 out of 107) were available. (1) 
According to the report of the Task Group on Health Physics and Dosimetry of the President's Commission on Three 

Mile Island, the high percentage of inoperable instruments could have contributed to difficulties in getting data during 
the first several hours of the accident before the Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) teams began to arrive, ami 
to difficulties in achieving good health physics techniques. (2) 

3 See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day." p. 112. 

1 See fn. 2 above and "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 132-133. Since the accident, the utility 
has still had problems with its health physics program. See "Recovery at Three Mile Island," pp. 175-177. 


depending on what assumptions were used in the 
calculation. (6) The Dose Assessment Group 
stated that its calculations were based on conserva- 
tive assumptions which "introduced significant 
overestimates of actual doses to the population." 5 
(8) The Group also estimated the average dose to 
an individual to have been 1.5 mrem. (9) 

The Dose Assessment Group concluded the ef- 
fects of offsite releases were minimal throughout 
the accident. 8 (10) 

The President's Commission generally agreed 
with the figures derived by the Dose Assessment 
Group and. like the Group, concluded that it was 
possible to derive reliable estimates: ". . . these 
deficiencies [related to measuring releases of 
radiation] did not affect the Commission staffs 
ability to estimate the radiation doses or health 
effects resulting from the accident." (11) 

The XRC Special Inquiry Group also concurred 
in the dose estimates, concluding that the average 
dose to an individual was about 1.4 mrem. (12) It 
likewise said that ". . . although the monitoring 
efforts could have been better .... the monitoring 
of releases during the accident was adequate to en- 
sure that the estimates of dose to the population 
are adequate." (13) 

A test by the Food and Drug Administration 
of the U.S. Department of Health. Education and 
"Welfare provided additional support for the 
estimates. Scientists from the Bureau of Radio- 
logical Health of that agency collected photo- 
graphic film from stores near the site to ascertain 
if it had been fogged by radiation and, if so. what 
the levels of radiation had been. It did not find 
abnormal or excessive fogging.' It concluded that 
if the fogging had been produced solely by radia- 
tion, the exposure levels would have been less than 
5 mrem. 8 This finding is in line with other 
c-timates. (15) 

Based on these estimates, the average total dose 
to an individual from the accident was about 1.4 

to 1.5 mrem. Total dose rates were less than 6 mrem 
per hour. 


The following examples of doses are provided 
for purposes of comparison: (16) 

Xo observable adverse health effects result 
from a short-term dose to the entire body 
of less than 25.000 millirem (mrem) (25 
rems). Severe adverse health effects (radia- 
tion sickness) are observable within two 
hours for doses of 200.000-600.000 mrem 
(200-600 rems). Immediate lethal effects 
result from doses in excess of 1,000,000 
mrem (1,000 rems). 

The U.S. population receives an average of 
about 100 mrem per year from natural 
background radiation (e.g.. from the sun, 
radiation from buildings, soil, ete.). Be- 
cause Denver. Colorado, is at a high alti- 
tude, and consequently less radiation is 
filtered by the atmosphere, the rate is 193 
mrem per year. In Harrisburg, Pa., near 
TMI. background radiation is 116 mrem. 

The U.S. population receives an average of 
100 mrems per year from medical diagnoses. 
A chest X-ray using good equipment pro- 
duces 15 mrem. 

The XRC standard for nuclear power plant 
workers is a whole body dose of 3.000 milli- 
rem, or 3 rem. every 3 months. The EPA 
standard for individual exposure to radia- 
tion from the uranium fuel cycle associated 
with the operation of a nuclear plant for 
one year is 25 mrem. 

The average federally recommended limit 
for exposure of the general population is 
170 mrem ; for an individual it is 500 mrem 
(1-5 rems). 

1 The Group calculated total population dose using data collected from the utility's dosimeters in place before and 
deployed during the accident, from XRC measurements and from DOE aerial surveys made during the accident. (7 

' It calculated the amount of the releases both by extrapolating from releases measured at the boundary of the plant 
site and by I lack-calculating on the basis of offsite measurements. 

' Fogging also can be produced in other ways, such as by heat. 

* Six rolls of Kodacolor 400 film, recommended by Kodak for this purpose, were collected from each of five sites 
within a few miles of Three Mile Island. The film was analyzed for fog levels by the Bureau after processing by Kodak. 
A batch of film purchased in Rockville. Maryland, was used as a control. 

When both sets were developed, that from Rockville showed similar levels of fogging to that from the TMI area. 
When compared with film of similar age stored in freezers at Kodak, these fog levels were found to be smaller than those 
of the Rockville film. (14). 


Chapter 6 

Prior To The Accident 


Three Mile Island under construction 


Chapter 6 

Prior To The Accident 


The Special Investigation explored the period 
prior to the accident as part of its examination of 
why a minor transient was able to escalate into a 
major accident and why the responses of the util- 
ity, the XRC and the State were inadequate. To 
this end. the development of Unit 2, 1 the nature of 
accidents at other facilities and the emergency 
response planning of the three organizations were 


The Special Investigation's review of the 
design, construction and early operating experi- 
ence of TMI-2 was instructive as to how decisions 
about the plant were made and what types of 
operational and other difficulties had occurred. 

Some of the problems that emerged from this 
review bore directly on the March 28, 1979 acci- 
dent. Among the more important were a number 
of deficiencies in control room design and instru- 
mentation that control room personnel had identi- 
fied and had asked to have changed. For example, 
they requested that a direct indicator of the posi- 
tion of the pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) be 
installed in the control room. The utility installed 
an indirect indicator which, on March 28. misled 
the operators into thinking the valve had closed. In 
fact, it had stuck open, allowing coolant to escape 
the reactor vessel. 2 A further example was the 
alarm system. In the event of a major accident, 
hundreds of alarms would activate in the first few 

minutes, far more than the control room personnel 
could assimilate. In addition, because of the design 
of the system, in the process of clearing an alarm 
it was possible to acknowledge others that had 
sounded but were not yet noticed. Although modifi- 
cations were made to the alarm acknowledgement 
system, they were insufficient according to the 
control room personnel, who decided, before 
March 28, 1979, not to acknowledge any alarms 
in the first minutes of an accident. 3 

Control room personnel had also come to dis- 
count key indicators of abnormal conditions be- 
cause of recurrent equipment malfunctions. The 
safety-related emergency high pressure injection 
system, designed to activate for losses of coolant, 
was coming on for less severe problems. 4 One or 
more of the valves on the pressurizer was leaking, 
causing elevated temperatures in the lines leading 
from it. 5 On the day of the accident, control room 
personnel did not interpret actuation of high pres- 
sure injection to mean a loss of coolant, nor did 
they interpret the even higher valve temperatures 
to mean the pilot -operated relief valve was stuck 
open, allowing coolant to escape. 6 

Various incidents that occurred during testing 
and startup of the reactor during the years prior 
to the accident would reoccur March 28. For ex- 
ample, in 1977 steam became trapped in the hot- 
legs and blocked the flow of coolant. The level 
of coolant in the pressurizer went up, while pres- 
sure in the primary system dropped an unusual 
occurrence. On March 28, similar conditions oc- 

1 It was beyond the resources of the Special Investigation to examine all facets of Unit 2's development. The AEC's 
and NRC's involvement in licensing and inspection, and management's position on many of the issues raised since the 
accident, could not Ue fully addressed. Information on early design and operating problems was derived principally from 
control room personnel. 

1 See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," p. 94. 

1 See p. 69. ' See p. 72. 'See pp. 71-72. 

' See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 96. 108. 


curred, but control room personnel on duty ap- 
parently were unaware of the early problems, did 
not understand the conditions, and responded in 
ways that contributed to a worsening of the loss 
of coolant. 7 

Training was an area of importance, given the 
inability of plant personnel to diagnose the acci- 
dent and their ineffective attempts to return the 
plant to stable conditions for much of the first day. 
The Special Investigation found major deficien- 
cies in the utility's training program and the 
NEC's oversight of training, as did other inves- 
tigations. 8 

Other aspects of the plant's pre-accident history 
are less directly related to the events of March 28. 
Management of the design and construction of the 
facility was fragmented. For example. Met Ed, 
the utility that ultimately operated the plant, had 
limited involvement in decisionmaking until after 
the plant was fullv constructed. 9 Several future 
operators of TMI-2 said that control room person- 
nel had little to do with evaluation of the final 
design, particularly of the control room, prior to 
startup operations, although they were responsible 
for plant operations. 10 

Economic considerations quite naturally in- 
fluenced decisionmakinj?. When the plant was 
transferred from the New Jersey site to Penn- 
sylvania, General Public Utilities, the parent com- 
pany, established a policy of minimum change. 
Although Unit 2 met all NEC safety require- 
ments, some desirable changes in the final design 
of Unit 2 identified bv plant personnel during the 
final construction and early operation of the, plant 
were not made, in part for economic reasons, and 
the weaknesses those changes would have corrected 
contributed to the difficulties utility personnel had 
in responding to the accident on March 28." 


The problems at TMI were not entirely unique. 
Prior to 1979, two other plants had experienced 
accidents that were quite similar to the early stages 
of TMI-2. Both were diagnosed in time to help 
prevent the later, serious conditions experienced 
at TMI. Information regarding these accidents 
was not effectively disseminated industry-wide by 
the NRG or by the vendors of affected systems. 12 


The responses of the utility, the NRC and the 
State to the accident revealed that their emergency 
response planning was seriously deficient. Prior to 
the accident, there was no coordination among the 
three providing for an integrated response. This 
was especially apparent with respect to considera- 
tion of protective action. 13 Responsibilities were 
not carefully delineated, and inadequate means 
were developed for communicating and assessing 
information on the status of the reactor. 14 Federal 
guidelines promulgated by the Environmental 
Protection Agency were vague and gave insuffi- 
cient guidance to 'the State and the utility with 
regard to what information was germane in assess- 
ing the status of the reactor, how that information 
was to be collected and bv whom, who was to re- 
ceive it, and how that information was to be used 
as a basis for taking action to protect the public. 15 

In addition, none of the three had adequate 
technical or manpower resources available at the 
outset of the accident. All experienced serious dif- 
ficulties with both internal and external communi- 
cations. 16 These problems were, in part, a result of 
limited assumptions that were made as to the kinds 
of accidents to be anticipated. 17 



Three Mile Island Unit 2, constructed between 
1969 and 1977, is located on an island in the Sus- 
quehanna River. 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, 
Pennsylvania. The surrounding area is still pre- 
dominately rural and agricultural, but recently 
there has been substantial industrial development. 
Within a five-mile radius of the plant, the popula- 

tion numbers about 30,000-35,000; within 10 miles. 
125.000-135,000; and within 20 miles, 750.000- 
900,000. (1) The nearest town Goldsboro, popu- 
lation around 550 is n/ 2 miles west of the 

TMI-2 is owned jointly bv three operating com- 
panies: Metropolitan Edison Company (Met 
Ed 'I 50 percent : Pennsylvania Electric Company 
(PENELEC) 25 percent; and Jersey Central 

'See p. 65. 'See pp. 73-76. 
" See pp. 84-86. " See pp. 84-86 

"See pp. 51-58. 
15 See pp. 85-86. 

' See p. 58. " See pp. 59-60, 66-72. 
18 See pp. 82-83 " See p. 83. 

12 See pp. 76-78. 


Power and Light Company (Jersey Central) 25 
percent. (2) All are wholly owned subsidiaries of 
General Public Utilities Corporation (GPU) , an 
electric utility holding company headquartered in 
Parsippany, Xew Jersey. (3) Under the license 
issued bv the XRC. operation of TMI-2 and its sis- 
ter plant. Three Mile Island Unit 1 (TMI-1), is 
the responsibility of Met Ed. 

Two aspects of TMI-2's early development are 
significant. First, it was initially planned for an- 
other site, and the decision to move it to Three Mile 
Island only came after the preliminary design had 
been completed. Second, management of the plant 
in the early years was scattered among GPU and 
its subsidiaries. 

These factors affected the plant's ultimate 
design and decisions about modifications requested 
by TMI operations staff. 


In the early 1960's. GPU decided to build a sec- 
ond nuclear plant at its Oyster Creek site in New 
Jersey. Ownership was to be shared by the three 
GPU subsidiaries: however, Jersey Central, re- 
sponsible for Oyster Creek Unit-1, was to operate 
it. (4) 

While planning for the Oyster Creek 2 project 
was getting underway. GPU decided to aggregate 
the company's nuclear resources, thus eliminating 
redundancy among the managerial and technical 
staff of it? three subsidiary operating companies. 
(5) Thus, in 1967, GPU established the Nuclear 
Power Activities Group to serve as central coordi- 
nator for the design and construction of all its 
nuclear projects. (6) The parent company's plan 
was that the. three subsidiaries would eventually 
be responsible only for operating completed plants. 
(In 1967, no GPU nuclear plant was operational.) 

In 1968. a year after the Activities Group was 
established, the operating companies still exer- 
cised many of the functions the Activities Group 
had been set up to take over. (7) Jersey Central, 
for example, had solicited bids for the design and 
construction of the new Oyster Creek plant and 
had managed the preparation of the application 
for a Construction Permit, submitted to the 
Atomic Energy Commission on Anril 22. 1968. 18 
(8) Met Ed was still managing the TMI-1 project. 

Management after the Site Transfer 

In December 1968, GPU decided to move the 
Oyster Creek 2 plant to Three Mile Island. 19 (9) 
Even though the plant was officially transferred 
to Met Ed, Jersey Central continued to provide 
technical support and had a major role in manag- 
ing the project. (10) According to Tom Hendrick- 

son of Burns and Roe, M part of GPU's rationale 
for continuing involvement by Jersey Central was 
to avoid delay in getting the plant on line. (11) 

The change in location presented an opportu- 
nity for either the Activities Group or Met Ed 
to begin assuming principal responsibility, and 
some organizational conflicts resulted. GPU's ob- 
jective was to consolidate the engineering con- 
struction management for all nuclear projects of 
its subsidiaries under the Activities Group. (12) 
On the other hand, Met Ed wanted to take 
primary responsibility for TMI-2. and. in 1969, 
it took administrative control of the TMI-2 proj- 
ect for 18 months. (13) 

As a result of the various maneuvers, there was 
no continuity in the management oversight for the 
project. (14) 

In 1971, GPU initiated a second attempt to con- 
solidate its nuclear programs. It abolished the 
Activities Group and formed the General Public 
Utilities Service Corporation (GPU Service Cor- 
poration) as a subsidiary, (15) with basically the 
same responsibilities. The new entity was to draw 
on the resources of the three operating companies, 
thus creating actual links among them. (16) 

As GPU Service Corporation grew, it gradually 
absorbed the design and development capabilities 
of the operating companies. However, the process 
was slow, and for seven years after it was estab- 
lished, it shared oversight responsibility with the 
GPU operating utilities. (17) 

Management Problems Identified 

By 1977, GPU commissioned a management 
consulting firm, Booz. Allen and Hamilton, to con- 
duct a managerial audit. Among the firm's conclu- 
sions were : 

An evaluation should be made of the au- 
thority and responsibility of Met Ed func- 
tional officers with respect to GPUSC 
FGPU Service Corporation]. 

Policies that define the respective roles and 
responsibilities of GPUSC and Met Ed in 
the design and construction of new facili- 
ties need to be reevaluated and clarified. 

Communications between GPUSC and Met 
Ed need to be strengthened in project- 
related areas. 

The effectiveness of present systems (main- 
tenance) is reduced by their somewhat 
limited application and use. 

An approach and formal program should 
be developed to improve the overall effec- 
tiveness of ... maintenance ... at Met Ed. 

There is a wide disparity in the quantity 
and quality of plant operator procedure 
documentation and training programs. 

" See box on "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Reactor Licensing Process," pp. 52-53. 
1 The reasons for the move are discussed on p. 54. 
" Burns and Roe, an architect-engineering firm, designed the Oyster Creek, later TMI-2, plant. See pp. 54-55. 



In order to build and run a nuclear power plant at a particular site, a utility must obtain a Con- 
struction Permit and then an Operating License from the NRC. 1 The NRC, like the Atomic Energy 
Commission before it, 2 licenses, regulates and inspects the construction and operation of commercial 
and other nonmilitary nuclear facilities. 

Prior to construction, the utility submits to the NRC a Preliminary Safety Analysis Report and 
an Environmental Report, which include information on safety design (in terms of construction, 
equipment and systems); site characteristics; public health issues; personnel; management and 
administration; emergency response plans; response to hypothetical accidents; environmental as- 
pects; quality assurance; control of radiation effluents and wastes; and financial capability. 

NRC staff reviews this material according to set procedures and criteria (these apply to sub- 
sequent reviews as well). They may require additional material. The utility has to demonstrate that 
it meets the requirements for licensing set forth in the NRC's regulations and has to justify any de- 
parture from standards set by the NRC. 

After examining the material, the NRC staff prepares a Safety Evaluation Report summarizing 
its findings. The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent body of experts estab- 
lished by law, reviews the report and all background material. The full committee submits its find- 
ings to the NRC Commissioners. 

The NRC also provides a Draft Environmental Statement for analysis by Federal, State and 
local agencies and the public. Comments are incorporated into a Final Environmental Statement. 

Public hearings are required on all applications for a Construction Permit ; they are held before 
an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. If the Board issues favorable findings, the XRC will issue a 
Construction Permit. Any decision by the Board may be appealed to and is reviewed by an Atomic 
Safety and Licensing Appeal Board, and there is an opportunity for final review by the Commission. 

The entire licensing procedure takes approximately 2,y 2 to 3 years, on the average, depending 
on the design, the extent of the public hearings and the number of issues requiring further clarifica- 
tion and justification. 

At all stages, the utility is required to file amendments for any changes that would affect safety ; 
these are subject to NRC approval. 

When a utility has reached the point in plant construction where it is able to present final design 
information and operating plans, it submits a Final Safety Analysis Report, a requirement for is- 
suance of an Operating License. The NRC review procedure is similar to that for the Construction 
Permit, except that a public hearing is not held unless requested (in accordance with the Commis- 
sion's rules). In its final report, the utility must present additional material on the final design of the 
facility, including data on the containment, the nuclear core and the waste handling system. 

When the Final Safety Analysis Report is approved and any hearings are completed, the NRC 
issues an Operating License with Technical Specifications for safety and environmental protection 
measures and other operating criteria the utility must meet to ensure public health and safety. 

1 See "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Reactor Licensing Process," Appendix C, pp. 233ff, for more detail. 
' The NRC inherited the AEC's regulatory authority when the AEC was abolished in 1975. 

Formal guidelines and minimum standards 
should be developed to help ensure con- 
tinued safe, reliable power plant opera- 
tions. (18) 

In 1977, Robert Arnold, Vice President for Gen- 
eration at Met Ed, was made Vice President for 
Generation at GPU Service Corporation. He was 
given responsibility for implementing some of the 
Booz, Allen recommendations and for consolidat- 
ing GPU's nuclear projects. (19) In addition, he 
was to develop within GPU Service Corporation a 
complete capability for basic design of nuclear 
plants. Such a capability would permit GPU to 
avoid contracting with architect-engineers. (20) 


Arnold said of his mission : 

[T]he issue was a very real one to us. It 
was one that was emphasized by Herman 
Dieckamp [President of Met Ed] when I 
went into the job. of the need to couple 
together the operating plant experience 
with the plant design and to provide the 
kind of technical review of what was hap- 
pening at the plant that was necessary to 
have the reliability of operation and 
safety operation that was necessary. (21) 

Arnold further commented : 

We . . . established a procedure which 
we had a great deal of difficulty getting 


An Operating License can be issued even while some safety-related questions are unresolved. For 
example, if it is determined that a question involves a generic issue, that is, it applies to a class or 
type of plant, the issue may be left unresolved until a final generic solution is developed. 3 A license 
cannot be issued, however, if the XRC staff determines that the question involves a safety factor 
that should bar continued operation or should require licensing actions prior to completion of the 
longer term review. (26) These same stipulations apply to non-generic safety issues. 

Once a plant is in service, the utility must file with the NRC a Licensee Event Report (LER) 
if it experiences an unusual incident (e.g. a transient). The XRC responds to these reports in sev- 
eral ways. They are placed on a computer, and a listing is published each month. Each event is also 
briefly summarized in a monthly publication, NUREG-0020, "Operating Unit Status Report." 

XRC staff in the Commission's regional offices and, to a lesser extent, at headquarters also re- 
view Licensee Event Reports for incidents of special safety, safeguards or environmental signifi- 
cance and to ascertain whether they have generic implications. Licensees are informed of generic 
concerns through Bulletins, to which they must respond in writing; through Circulars, to which 
they need not respond ; or through Generic Letters or Orders. 

The XRC licensing functions associated with construction and operation of nuclear reactors are 
performed by the Office of Xuclear Reactor Regulation. There were four main divisions in the Office 
which carried out this responsibility at the time of the accident at TMI. 

The Division of Project Management was assigned management functions in connection with 
reviews of reactor safety up to the time an Operating License was issued. 

The Division of Systems Safety carried out the actual safety reviews connected with applica- 
tions for Construction Permits and Operating Licenses. 

The Division of Site Safety and Environmental Analysis reviewed all safety and environmental 
aspects of reactor sites. 

The Division of Operating Reactors took over from Project Management and Systems Safety 
responsibility for reviewing proposed design and operational changes at operating reactors. 
Thus, when an Operating License was issued, primary responsibility within XRR for a plant was 
transferred from the Division of Project Management to the Division of Operating Reactors. 

There sometimes was a delay in this transfer of responsibility if a safety issue was unresolved. 
The Division of Operating Reactors did not accept responsibility for TMI-2 until August 1979, five 
months after the accident, because there had been such unresolved questions. (27) 

Plant construction and operations are monitored by the Office of Inspection and Enforcement 
(ME). It consists of a headquarters group and five regional offices, charged with the development 
of policies and the implementation of programs for inspection of licensees, applicants and their 
contractors and suppliers to ascertain whether they are complying with XI?C regulations, rules, 
orders and license conditions. Inspectors from this Office were monitoring TMI-2 during the period 
immediately prior to the accident. 

' An example of a generic problem found at operating plants was an error discovered in calculations relating to 
the performance of piping systems during earthquakes, a problem that involved several plants. 

executed reliably, so I would not want to 
take too much credit for what it was, but 
a policy was set out and it is indicative 
of what we were putting into place as one 
of the ways to address this problem. (22) 
* * * 

... I don't think we felt at any point 
that the structure we had was inadequate 
or inappropriate. We rather felt that 
there were ways in which we wanted to 
improve it as we kept building toward 
the future. (23) 

When the Operating License for TMI-2 was 
issued by the XRC, on February 8, 1978, complete 
responsibility for the operation and safety of the 
nuclear plant devolved to Met Ed, although for a 
time GPU was to retain responsibility for com- 
pleting the project and for the schedule. (24) 


By the end of 1968, a large portion of the facility 
and equipment for Oyster Creek 2 had been pro- 
cured. However, the AEC had not yet issued a 
Construction Permit, and no major construction 
work had been undertaken. (25) 


In December 1968, there was a meeting involv- 
ing : GPU and its subsidiaries ; Burns and Roe, the 
architect-engineer; and the major contractors and 
vendors for the facility. (28) Among the latter 
was Babcock & Wilcox, which was to supply the 
nuclear reactor. 21 

At the meeting, GPU announced a decision to 
transfer the plant to Three Mile Island. (30) Ac- 
cording to Louis Roddis, then Director of the Nu- 
clear Power Activities Group, 

The problem was related to construction 
labor difficulties in the central New Jersey 
area at that time frame which were 
basically resolved after the Colonial 
Pipeline cases came to trial and were 
settled. It was just a very unfavorable 
labor climate to operate in. (31) 

Burns and Roe's Hendrickson elaborated on 
Roddis' explanation in an interview with Special 
Investigation staff : 

Late during the construction phase of 
Oyster Creek Unit No. 1, the Oyster 
Creek Plant, there were difficulties ex- 
perienced by the utility, basically labor- 
related difficulties in the Jersey com- 
pany's area down there where it was being 
built. They were not anything that we 
were involved in except that a decision 
was made by General Public Utilities to 
relocate the unit from the Oyster Creek 
site to the TMI island site. (32) 

Prior to the meeting, GPU had commissioned a 
comprehensive study of the factors involved in 
the transfer. (33) A summary of the findings was 
spelled out in November 1968 in a memorandum 
Roddis sent to GPU President William G. Kuhns. 
(34) The following are the key points made in the 
memorandum : (35) 

Subject : 

Site problems at TMI _ 

Ocean discharge 

Plant reliability 

Construction schedule 

Construction contractor- 

Study conclusions : 

Operating cost at TMI 
would be less, with a 
possible annual sav- 
ings of $100,000 In 
operating labor ex- 


No problem at TMI. 

No change. 

A delay was anticipated 
with the transfer. 

The Architect Engineer 
should be the same 
for both plants at TMI. 


Transferring the plant involved some difficul- 
ties. For example, dovetailing the construction of 
the two TMI units was possible to only a limited 
extent. 22 Although the basic reactor designs were 
the same (Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water 
reactors), overall plant designs differed. Much of 
the equipment Burns and Roe had chosen for the 
Oyster Creek plant was of different origin than 
that for the TMI-1 plant, then under construction 
by the architect-engineering firm of Gilbert As- 
sociates, Inc. (37) 

There were differences of opinion within both 
GPU and Met Ed as to whether the two plants 
should have different designs. (38) Both com- 
panies had discussed with the other operating 
companies the possibility of completely redesign- 
ing TMI-2 to match TMI-1, (39) biit economic 
and scheduling considerations ran counter to this 
plan. (40) 

Another issue was whether Burns and Roe 
should remain the architect-engineer for TMI-2. 
(41) Met Ed hnd a longstanding contractual 
relationship with Gilbert Associates, Inc., because 
of TMI-1 and previous power plant projects. (42) 
Further, Roddis believed that Gilbert was "a bet- 
ter design engineer." (43) He added, 

31 The report of the Special Inquiry Group provides a concise description of the relationship among the various 
organizations that play a part in the construction of nuclear plants: 

Some of the first commercial nuclear plants were "turnkey" projects designed and built entirely by vendors 
General Electric or Westinghouse for a fixed price and then turned over to utilities for operation. In this 
country that pattern has changed. A utility now hires an architect-engineer firm like Bechtel, Stone & 
Webster, or, in the case of TMI-2. Burns and Roe, to serve as "general contractor," design the overall layout 
of the plant, and serves as the utility's technical advisor in buying a vendor's reactor system. ... It is typical 
to have different companies involved in the construction and operations of the plant. (29) 

22 There is a growing practice of preplanning multi-plant power stations. The theory is to design the plants identically, 
then construct them in tandem. The typical scheme is to stagger the schedules of twin plants by t.vo or three years, 
allowing the development stages of design, engineering and construction to be shifted sequentially from the lead plant to 
the following plant, with substantial economic savings. Maintaining the same plant design also affords operational 
conveniences. As .Tames Neely, GPU project manager for Oyster Creek in 1968, stated : 

It is generally accepted practice that if you have two plants . . . duplicate on the site, you are in a much better 
position from the standpoint of overall operability and maintainability than if you have two different plants on 
the same site. (36) 

Such a construction scheme was even less feasible at Oyster Creek because of differences in plant designs and sched- 
ules. For example, Oyster Creek 1 was a boiling water reactor, while Unit 2 was to be a pressurized water reactor. 


If we were building TMI-1 and TMI-2 
as a paired plant at that location, I cer- 
tainly would have one AE [architect- 
engineer] for the whole job, and in the 
time frame of 1966, whenever that deci- 
sion was made by Metropolitan Edison to 
choose, Gilbert, 'it [Gilbert] would have 
been the one for both of them. (44) 

Rocldis later explained his comments by saying, 
"We didn't have that option. That was the point 
I am trying to make." (45) He also noted: 

[The TMI-2 design] was adequate. It was 
in the licensing process [Construction 
Permit] at an advanced stage. It was 
being done by an architect-engineer that 
was competent ... it was different than 
Unit 1, but there was nothing that said 
necessarily that any feature of it was bet- 
ter or worse. (46) 


At the same meeting where the transfer was 
announced, GPU stated that final design and con- 

struction of TMI-2 were to involve "minimum- 
change." (47) This objective was reflected in 
Burns and Roe's minutes of the meeting : 

It is a requirement that the minimum pos- 
sible disturbance be made to the existing 
design, so as not to detract from the 
schedule. A design will be used, even 
though not optimum, provided it is ade- 
quate and can save time. (48) 

According to Neely, "The overall decision to 
move the plant with the minimum changes was 
based on economic considerations." (49) 

In accordance with the GPU directive, Burns 
and Roe remained the architect-engineer for TMI- 
2, and construction proceeded with significant dif- 
ferences in the design of the two TMI plants. 23 

Changes Still Required 

The transfer necessitated some major changes 
in the original Oyster Creek design. For example : 

1. The heat rejection system, which releases un- 
usable waste heat from the plant to the environ- 
ment, was converted from an open circulation 24 

Major buildings of Unit 2, Three Mile Island Nulear Station, including the Epicor-If 

M For example, the turbine generator and condensate polishers for the two plants were supplied by different 
manufacturers ; operationally. Unit 2 was designed for a higher level of power generation than Unit 1. The control room 
designs were also different. ( The TMI-2 control room is discussed in detail on p. 61. ) 

-' In open circulation, cooling water is continuously drawn from a body of water (e.g., the Atlantic Ocean near the 
Oyster Creek site) and then discharged back to it at a slightly higher temperature because of the waste heat from the 
plant. In closed circulation, cooling water heated by waste heat is pumped through a recirculation loop and into the 
cooling towers. The heat is transferred to air drawn through the structure of the towers. Thus both methods discharge 
heat to the environment, but open circulation systems heat the water, whereas closed systems heat the air. 


to the closed circulation design of TMI-1, which 
was using the multi-story cooling towers (51) that 
have become a familiar feature of nuclear and 
other power plants. 

2. Major structures in both TMI units, includ- 
ing the containments that house the reactors, were 
reinforced to withstand the collision of a jet air- 
liner landing or taking off at the nearby Harris- 
burg airport. Since such a crash might involve in- 
stantaneous explosion and burning of jet fuel, 
safety-related design changes also had to be made 
in the TMI corridors and ventilation system. (52) 

3. The foundations of the plant were modified 
to accommodate the difference in terrain between 
Oyster Creek and TMI. The TMI site was com- 
posed of bedrock, whereas Oyster Creek had a 
more penetrable composition of sand and gravel. 

The AEC required that the utility provide a 
safety assessment of the proposed modifications. It 
was submitted, and on November 4, 1969, the AEC 
granted Met Ed a Construction Permit for TMI-2. 


The control room is the operational center of a 
nuclear power plant. From it, the operator, using 
his training and experience and assisted by written 
procedures, assesses the status of the plant and con- 
trols its operation. In the event of an accident, it 
is primarily in the control room that operators 
diagnose the problem and take corrective actions 
to bring the plant to a stable condition. 

The Special Investigation's review of the evolu- 
tion of the control room revealed that several de- 
ficiencies had surfaced during the construction and 
testing phases, as well as during two minor acci- 
dents that occurred after the plant went critical 
in 1978. Operators and supervisors had requested 
that management modify manv of the trouble- 
some features, but at the time of the March 28 ac- 
cident, a .number remained unchanged or had been 
changed unsatisfactorily in the operators' opinion. 


Human Factors Engineering 

To achieve a workable design for a control room, 
design engineers, working within the broad 
framework of NRC requirements, apply their ex- 
pertise and experience with instrumentation and 
controls. (55) An important consideration in de- 
veloping a control room is "human factors," and 

a control room should be designed in accordance 
with human factors engineering practices. 25 

NRC Requirements 

Design of the TMI control room had begun in 
1968. At the time, the NRC regulations had only 
a few general requirements : 

A control room shall be provided from 
which actions can be taken to operate the 
nuclear power unit safely under normal 
conditions and to maintain it in a safe 
condition under accident conditions, in- 
cluding loss-of-coolant accidents. Ade- 
quate radiation protection shall be pro- 
vided to permit access and occupancy of 
the control room under accident condi- 
tions without personnel receiving radia- 
tion exposures in excess of 5 rem whole 
body, or its equivalent to any part of the 
body, for the duration of the accident. 

The NRC's guidelines did not explicitly cover 
human factors aspects of a control room. (57) 

Salvatore Gottilla, the lead instrument engineer 
at Burns and Roe in 1969, commented on the 
NRC's regulatory requirements : 

Let me say briefly that there were no 
regulatory guides or standards that dic- 
tated the design of control rooms. There 
were a number of regulatory guides 
which had reouirements which imnacted 
on the control room design . . . for ex- 
ample, there is a commonlv uspd standard 
in the industry: it's an IEEE standard 
279. which Fwasl enforced as a require- 
ment . . . for the design of safety shut- 
down svstems. This had some require- 
ments for the kind of equipment we use. 
the wav we specify it, reauirements for 
redundancy, requirements for pegging, et 
cetera, et cetera, all of which, to some ex- 
tent, impacted on the design of the control 
room. (58) 


The TMI-2 control room was desi<rned primar- 
ily by Burns and Roe. with input from the GPU 
Service Corporation. Met Ed engineering person- 
nel participated at times, corresponding indirectly 
with Burns and Roe through the Service Corpora- 
tion and occasionallv directly with Burns and Roe 
through letters and memos. (59) On many occa- 

"' The term "human factors" in the context of nuclear power plant design refers to the physical and psychological 
needs and capabilities of plant personnel. Accounting for these needs and capabilities in the design nnd operation of 
machines is called human factors engineering. Examples of human factors that became important at TMI on the day of 
the accident were the ability of individuals to recognize, assess and respond to a barrage of Information and signals, and 
their ability to ^vork in protective garments, such as respirators. 


sions, representatives from GPU Service Corpo- 
ration. Met Ed and Burns and Roe all participated 
in conferences related to the project. (60) More- 
over. Burns and Roe had contracted with many 
other vendors, among them Babcock & Wilcox, 
to supply instruments, controls and, in some cases, 
entire prefabricated control panels. (61) 

Thus, there was a considerable number of con- 
tributors to the design and development of the 
control room. (62) and differences of opinion oc- 
curred. For example, in 1968. when the plant was 
still planned for Oyster Creek, Babcock & Wilcox 
had sent Burns and Roe some drawings of the 
model control room at the B&W nuclear reactor 
simulator facilitv (63) in Lynchburg. Virdnia. 
About a month later. B&W proposed that Burns 
and Roe use the design of the simulator control 
room for the Oyster Creek 2 plant. (64) B&W 
stated that to do so would be particularly advan- 
tageous if plant operators were to train on the 
simulator at the B&W facility. 26 (65) 

Ed Gahan of Burns and Roe. the supervising 
instrument engineer responsible for the design cri- 
teria and review of the Oyster Creek, later TMT-2. 
control room, advised against the proposal. (66) 
In his opinion. B&W had built the simulator to 
support their engineering design work, and it 
lacked manv of the proper warning systems, indi- 
cators and displays necessary in commercial opera- 
tions to account for the human element. (67) 

In a memo to Gottilla dated December 27. 1968, 
Gahan expressed his thoughts on the B&W pro- 
posal : 

B&W had not explained how the sim- 
ulator would be available for training. 

Items found on actual control room 
panels, such as annunciators, were not 
present on the simulator panels. 

Instruments and controls on the B&W 
design were not of the "heavy duty 
type consistent with power plant design 
practice." (68) 

Eventuallv. Gahan desipned the Ovster Creek 
Unit 2 control room. (69) Babcock & Wilcox was 
commissioned to supply three of its modular 

By the time the decision was made to relocate 
the Oyster Creek plant in 1968. the preliminary 
work on control room design had been completed. 

(70) In fart. Burns and Roe had already besrun to 
tailor specific details around requests by the Oyster 
Creek personnel who were to operate the plant. 

(71) The design and engineering work slowed 
while the utility management deliberated the pol- 
icy and strategy of the transfer, and detailed de- 

sign efforts were deferred while major changes in 
plant systems were considered. (72) 

One or Two Designs at TMI 

As a result of the transfer, utility management 
had had to choose between two opposing concepts 
regarding design of the control room : (73) 

1. To retain as much of the original Oyster 
Creek design as the required plant system 
changes would allow, or 

2. To redesign the control room for Unit 2 
to match the design of the TMI-1 control 

Those who supported redesigning the control 
room argued that cross-licensing 27 of operators 
would be simplified if the two control rooms were 
identical. (74) Those opposed to redesign argued 
that to have similar control rooms for plants with 
different physical characteristics could confuse 
cross-licensed operators. (75) Implicit in the latter 
argument was that some aspects of the design of 
the two plants at TMI would be different, in ac- 
cordance with GPU ? s minimum-change objective. 

In January 1969, Burns and Roe received a let- 
ter from J. Bartman of Met Ed Operations, re- 
questing that the TMT-2 control room be 
redesigned to match TMI-1. (76) Gottilla con- 
sulted with representatives of Jersey Central, who 
advised that Bartman's request be ignored. (77) 

Bartman persisted, and he had the support of 
others at Met Ed. At a Burns and Roe conference 
in March 1969, he again made his request. (78) 

Redesigning the control room still conflicted 
with GPU's minimum-change objective. (79) A 
debate ensued over the cross-licensing issue, and a 
call was made to the AEC. The agency confirmed 
that similarity in control rooms was not a manda- 
tory criterion for cross-licensing. (80) Those at 
the conference accepted GPU's objective. 

At the conclusion of the meeting. GPU stated 

. . . [it] would have the final word on con- 
trol room design changes, and that Burns 
and Roe should accept no proposed 
changes from Met Ed without prior ap- 
proval of either GPU or JCPL [Jersey 
Central]. (81) 


Burns and Roe did encounter some problems 
with the control room's design. For example, in 
1971. its engineers discovered that the controls for 
the feedwater system had accidentally been di- 
vided between two of the main console panels and 
were located 22 feet apart. (82) One of the two 

M Prior to 1070 there was only one simulator in operation for a B&W-type reactor. Therefore, the B&W facility would 
likely have l>een used by Met Ed no matter what control room design was nsed. 

37 The XRC may license an operator to run more than one plant, a procedure known as cross-licensing. At Till only 
senior reactor operators in superyisory positions became cross-licensed for both plants. 


5t-OS8 0-80-5 

panels had been supplied by Burns and Roe, the 
other by B&W. After Burns and Roe informed 
GPU of the problem, a series of design change 
proposals was made and jointly studied by Burns 
and Roe and GPU. (83) 

Some of the proposals did not consider chang- 
ing the position of individual instruments and 
controls on the panels. Instead, the common sug- 
gestion was to reposition several of the 17 major 
panels in the control room. These preliminary at- 
tempts proved impractical, for when the panels 
were rearranged to regroup controls for one sys- 
tem, those of another would become separated. 

The designers finally became convinced there 
was no simple solution. They resolved the problem 
of the separated feedwater controls both by re- 
arranging the positions of the control panels and 
by redesigning several control panel layouts. (84) 


According to Bill Zewe, the Station Shift Su- 
pervisor on duty at the beginning of the March 
28, 1979 accident, in late 1973 and early 1974, the 
shift foremen and shift supervisors who were to 
work at TMI-2 were able to review and comment 
on the design plans for the control room. Zewe said 
his review was limited by the advanced state of 
planning : 

Certain little features that had not yet 
been finalized, I had the time to comment 
on those, but most of the engineering ef- 
fort has already been completed by that 
time, and had been pretty well set. (85) 

Edward Frederick and Craig Faust, two opera- 
tors also present in the control room at the start 
of the accident, were comparatively junior operat- 
ing personnel at this time. They said they were 
not asked to review or comment on the design of 
the control room at all during this phase. (86) 

Design of the control room was substantially 
complete in 1975. 

Special Investigation staff asked Hendrickson 
of Burns and Roe whether his company had ever 
reviewed the control room in terms of operator 
response to the accidents postulated in the Final 
Safety Analysis Report submitted to the AEC. 
He noted that since they did not have operating 
procedures for Unit 2, 28 the designers had had no 

opportunity to perform a "task analysis" 29 of the 
control room and to modify the design based on 
the findings. In his words : 

Well, I think it's really very simple. We 
did not do that [conduct the review] , and 
we could not have done it because we did 
not have the operating procedures. 
Those were a matter that Metropolitan 
Edison developed. And the only way it 
[perform a task analysis] can be done is 
to review the procedures against the con- 
trol room. (87) 


James Floyd, Operations Supervisor for TMI- 
2, was one of the people responsible for developing 
operating and emergency procedures for TMI-2. 36 
Special Investigation staff asked him whether sub- 
sequent testing of the procedures helped opera- 
tions staff identify problems with the design of the 
control room. 

Floyd responded : 

Yes. The classic example, of course, is the 
high-pressure injection flow meters. From 
where you're controlling the valves, you 
can't read the meters that you're trying 
to control. It was identified as soon as the 
procedure [was] delivered to the control 
room. (89) 

Floyd commented on the response of operations 
staff to this particular problem : 

[A solution] of course, would have been 
to try to move the meters down to where 
you could see them. But that involves the 
ES system, engineering safety features 
system . . . which have to have mechanical 
as well as electrical separation. It would 
have involved fire barriers and the whole 
gamut of things involved, and it was 
probably just easier to let the meters 
[stay] where they were and take the three 
steps if you needed to. (90) 


In 1976, while the control room was still under 
construction but after the various panels had been 

28 Operating procedures provide directions to plant operators controlling, monitoring and responding to the mechanical 
systems of the plant in a normal state. There are also procedures for emergency and abnormal conditions. 

M A task analysis is a review to determine the specific actions required of people performing a given function, for 
example, monitoring or controlling machinery. 

30 In general, procedures for TMT-2 were prepared in several stages. In the first, the procedures already in existence 
for TMI-1 or original drafts by Met Ed, B&W, Burns and Roe or NTJS, a Met Ed consultant, were modified. Then they 
were reviewed toy the Met Ed procedure writing group, after which they went to thp PORC (Plant Operations Review 
Committee) for review and a first approval. (The Review Committee is a group of Met Ed operators and engineers who 
advise plant management on reactor and radioactive waste safety.) The procedures were then "red-lined" and sent back 
to the Review Committee for review and approval. ("Red-lining" refers to a process by which procedures are tested and 
corrected.) The procedures then were sent to the Generation Review Committee for final review and approval. (88) The 
NRC did not systematically review all procedures, and its approval was not required. 


assembled, TMI-2 operators were able to familiar- 
ize themselves with the room. (91) In 1977, testing 
began (a phase that continued into 1978). 

Throughout this period, operations staff ex- 
pressed concern about certain features. (92) They 
used several formal means for commenting on and 
requesting changes in the control room design, in- 
cluding the Field Change Request Form, the GPU 
Startup Problem Report and the GPU Field 
Questionnaire. (93) Reouests for design changes 
were forwarded to GPU management for review 
and possible implementation. (94) 

GPU did not make all the requested modifica- 
tions. Some it made only in response to actual dif- 
ficulties. For example, Frederick said that with 
respect to one problem, operators had asked re- 
peatedly for a position indicator for the valves in 
the feedwater system. (95) An indicator was not 
installed until after a minor accident on April 23, 
1978, which involved excess feedwater going 
through a feedwater valve that had closed more 
slowly than expected. 31 (96) 

The Alarm System 

Frederick pointed out another problem the 
tremendous number of alarms in the control room : 

When the operators first went over there 
and started examining the control panels 
as they were being built, we were im- 
pressed right away with the number of 
alarms (97) 

He added, "that was a comment that we had from 
the beginning, that the alarm system seemed rather 
extensive." (98) 

Alarm Acknowledgement 

In addition to the number of alarms, operators 
from the beginning expressed concern about the 
system used to acknowledge and clear the alarms 
in the control room. (99) 

When an alarm activates in the TMI-2 control 
room, one of about 1.200 2" x 3" annunciator win- 
dows begin flashing brightly and a loud horn 
sounds. (100) The operator acknowledges the 
alarm from a control button on the main console, 
causing the horn to stop and the alarm window 
light to cease flashing and remain lit. 

As soon as the cause of the alarm is taken care 
of. the horn sounds and the alarm window light 
begins flashing again, but more dimly than origi- 
nallv. This is known as the "ring-back*' feature 
of the alarm system. (101) The operator, by de- 
pressing the same button on the console, can then 
clear the alarm, silencing the horn and turning 
the alarm window light completely off. 

Conceptually, the ring-back feature of the alarm 
svstem is a useful analytical tool for the operators. 
However, with only a single button botli to ac- 

knowledge and to clear lighted alarms, (102) op- 
erators cannot acknowledge and clear them 
independently. Without realizing it, they could 
inadvertently acknowledge new alarms coming 
into the control room while clearing previously 
acknowledged alarms in the ring-back mode. 

The TMI-1 plant, in contrast, had separate 
buttons for acknowledging and clearing the 
alarms. (103) 

By the spring of 1978, after the hardware for 
the TMI-2 control room was already purchased, 
the operations staff requested that GPU redesign 
the acknowledgement system for the alarms to 
match that of Unit 1. (104) Floyd recalled GPU 
management's response : 

. . . the hardware that was [already] 
purchased would not allow that kind of 
acknowledging system . . . And it was 
my understanding that the alarms in 
Unit 2 could not be made to respond that 
way without a tremendous additional 
expense. . . . (105) 

Additional Instrumentation 

Operations staff also asked for additional in- 
struments. Given the advanced stage of the 
control room, the placement of additional instru- 
mentation was makeshift. Floyd recalled two 
specific cases. One related to the Liquid Waste 
Disposal Panel (known as 8A) : 

We added the panel 8A. which has come 
under criticism; the one that has the re- 
actor coolant drain tank instrumentation 
[temperature and pressure] on it. To get 
the indication into the control room, that 
was the only spot that was available. So, 
it was added at a back panel ; and hence, 
out of the line of sight of the operator. 
Some people may consider that a major 
change. It was an addition and not added 
in the proper location. (106) 

This particular panel was a factor in the acci- 
dent on March 28, 1979. Abnormal conditions in 
the reactor coolant drain tank can be a sign of 
a loss of coolant through a leaking or stuck-open 
relief valve on the pressurizer. a situation that 
occurred at TMI-2 that day. Since the indicators 
of conditions in the tank were out of sight of the 
main control room console and since there were 
no strip chart recorders for these conditions, con- 
trol room personnel found it difficult to see changes 
and to track them over time. 32 

The second case cited by Floyd related to the 
location of some of the alarms on the panels. 
When the sections of the panels containing the 
alarm windows were designed, the need for addi- 
tional alarms was anticipated, and excess win- 

* This incident is described on pp. 66-70. 

E See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 100-101. 

dows were provided. Twenty percent of the 
windows at TMI-2 originally had not been desig- 
nated for particular alarms. As time went on, 
these windows were used for new alarms. Eventu- 
ally it became hard to find a free window near the 
appropriate control. Floyd commented : 

. . . you tried to locate them in the area 
where they were most useful to you for 
the components controlled or alarming. 
Sometimes this was not possible; there- 
fore, you had to go clear to the other side 
of the control room to find a planning 
window to light. (107) 

In trying to retrofit and redesign the control 
room in the final stages of its development (see 
box on the TMI-2 control room for details on the 
final design) , Floyd stated that he 

. . . wasn't free to move all the controls 
around to get them the way I wanted 
them, necessarily. So, it was a limited 
choice that I exercised. (108) 

According to Roddis, the TMI-2 control room 
features generally did not compare favorably to 
those of TMI-1 : 

Well, it [TMI-1] has the feel in the plant 
of having been laid out with somewhat 
more consideration for the operator. For 
instance, I was looking, when I was out 
there a few weeks ago, at the purification 
system, the water cleanup system, the con- 
trol panel is much more thoughtfully laid 
out, and the valve locations are near the 
things you are trying to control. The same 
unit in [TMI-2] is put together with 
much less thought to the operator being 

able to perform his functions easily. . . . 


Many of the deficiencies in control room design 
that TMI personnel had identified related to 
human factors engineering. During the 1970's, both 
industry and the Government began studying this 
area of design. Up to that time, their principal 
focus had been on designing safe mechanical 
equipment and systems. The NRC and other 
groups then became increasingly interested in the 
potential for human error and saw a need to assess 
its relation to the reliability and safety of nuclear 

The various studies revealed that insufficient 
attention had been paid to human factors in de- 
signing nuclear power plants and that there was 
potential for human error attributable to poor 

One of the earliest studies was performed in 
1972 by Dr. Alan Swain of Sandia Laboratories. 
At the request of the AEC, he visited the Dresden 
Nuclear Power Facility in Illinois. After his re- 
view, he prepared a memo in which he discussed 
some of the major departures from standard hu- 
man factors engineering practices that he had 
observed. (117) They included : (118) 

1. The control rooms for Unit 2 and Unit 3 
were mirror images of each other ; 

2. A large number of displays and controls 
were not grouped functionally; and 

3. There was a constant barrage of alarms, 
even under normal conditions. 

The control room at Three Mile Island, Unit 2 



As it was finally constructed, the control room looked as follows : 
Back Panete Vertical Panels 



- 5 -' "6" 

Adapted from Metropolitan Edison Diagram 

The innermost I* consists of console-type panels, the tops of which are about chest high. Infor- 
mation displays and control equipment used frequently during operations, the start-up controls 
and the computer panel and protective equipment needed quickly in emergencies are all mounted 
on these consoles. Included are the indicators and controls for the reactor power output, steam gen- 
erators and turbine generator, reactor coolant make-up and purification system, safety features actu- 
ation system and condensate and feedwater systems. (110) 

Behind the consoles, and separated from them by a walkway, are the vertical panels. They stand 
approximately seven feet high and contain the radiation monitoring equipment indicators, the indi- 
cators and controls for the containment isolation valves, the individual control rod position in- 
dicators, the status of engineered safety features, recorders for the temperatures of all major 
equipment and of the primary system, and fire indicators. These panels also contain the annunci- 
ator lights that are part of the alarm system. (Ill) 

Behind the vertical panels are two back panels, out of the line of sight of the main console. They 
contain the indicators for the heating and ventilating system, the sump pumps and the liquid waste 
disposal system which include indicators for the temperature, pressure and level of the reactor cool- 
ant drain tank. (112) 

The alarm system in the control room consists of both visual and audible warning devices that 
alert the operator if any system is approaching unsafe conditions. (113) The annunciator boards lo- 
cated near the top of the vertical panels constitute the visual portion of the alarm system. They are 
divided into approximately 50 individual boxes or windows, each a few inches on a side. Each win- 
dow bears the name of a system or component. A computer with printout capabilities monitors plant 
performance and alarms. It is also used for logging data. (114) 

In a typical control room, the most common controls are selector switches, pushbuttons, rotary 
knobs, thumbwheels, levers, toggle switches, and switch lights. (115) The most common indicators 
are lights and meters. Strip chart recorders are also used extensively in control rooms to record 
trends in given parameters over time. There are two basic types of chart recorders those that pro- 
vide numerical printouts and multi-pen recorders that draw trend lines. The recorders help the 
operator monitor the systems. (116) 

A large number of controls, instruments, and alarms does not necessarily imply a better or worse 
design. More important to ease of operation is the arrangement and display of control room devices. 


Dr. Swain concluded that there had been no 
formal or systematic consideration of human 
factors technology in the design of the plant. (119) 

In an interview with Special Investigation staff, 
Dr. Swain said that, presumably as a result of this 
work, the AEC decided to look more closely at 
human reliability in the operation of nuclear 
power plants. (120) The agency asked him to 
participate in the preparation of WASH-1400, 
the Reactor Safety Study, and he was one of the 
primary contributors to the Human Reliability 
section of that report, issued in 1975. (121) 

The February 1974 edition of IEEE Transac- 
tions on Nuclear Science contained an article en- 
titled "Control Room Standardization: A Safety 
Goal." In it, Dr. Stephen H. Hanauer, then Di- 
rector, Office of Technical Advisor, Regulation, 
AEC, raised two major concerns: (122) 

1. In an emergency, a reactor operator is 
relied on to perform important safety func- 
tions for which he has been trained only on 
a simulator. Therefore, the designs of simu- 
lators and actual control rooms should be 
similar. He recommended that since the num- 
ber of simulators is small, the number of dif- 
ferent control room designs should be small. 
Hanauer called for the industry to standard- 
ize its control room designs. 

2. Control room designs were not optimal 
in terms of safe reactor operations. Hanauer 
suggested that some of the human factors en- 
gineering used in the space program be ap- 
plied to nuclear plants. 

On March 13, 1975, Dr. Hanauer sent a memo 
to NRC Commissioner Gilinsky, with copies to 
Chairman Anders, Commissioners Kennedy, Ma- 
son and Rowden, and other senior NRC staff. 
The subject was "Important Technical Reactor 
Safety Issues Facing the Commission Now or in 
the Near Future." One focus was human per- 
formance. (123) 

According to Dr. Hanauer, the Commission did 
not follow up on either document. (124) 

Earlier in 1974. the AEC contracted with San- 
dia Laboratories to do a human factors analysis 
of a typical nuclear power plant to identify hu- 
man factors problems and their effects on operator 
reliability. Dr. Swain conducted the studv and in 
October 1975 issued a report entitled "Prelimi- 
nary Human Factors Analysis of Zion Nuclear 
Power Plant." (125) His major findings were: 

1. Standard human factors techniques 
could be used to identify inadequacies in the 
design of equipment, in the provisions for 
training and practice, and in operating 

2. Control room design deviates in many 
ways from accepted human factors engineer- 
ing standards and increases the probability 
of human error. Swain cited, as examples, 
the poor layout of controls and displays, the 
excessive number of annunciators (alarms), 
misleading and inadequate labels on controls 
and displays, and a confusing use of color to 
indicate the status of equipment. 

He concluded that : 

1. Some relatively minor and inexpensive re- 
designing of equipment, more emergency re- 
sponse drills and changes in the format and 
content of written procedures could improve 
human reliability. 

2. Valuable data on human performance 
could be collected for detailed quantitative 
human reliability analysis studies. (126) 

One of the report's principal recommendations 
was that industry-wide standards be developed on 
the application of human factors engineering to 
equipment, written procedures, operating meth- 
ods, and onsite training and practice for nuclear 
power plants. (127) 

Based on this report, the NRC's Human Engi- 
neering Research Review Group 33 recommended 
that a Regulatory Guide be prepared on control 
room design. According to William Farmer, 
Chairman of the Group, there was some agree- 
ment within the NRC that such a guide was 
needed, (128) but it was never developed. 

The NRC sponsored another study to provide 
data for a standard being developed by the Amer- 
ican National Standards Institute on Criteria for 
Safety-Related Operator Actions (ANSI 660). 
The objective was to determine the amount of 
time an operator needs to respond to a situation 
and to adjust controls or take corrective actions. 
The study also was to assist the Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, NRC, in deciding when to re- 
quire automatic responses by plant equipment and 
when an operator could be responsible for taking 
corrective action. 

The preliminary data supported NRR's gen- 
eral standard that if response were required in less 
than 10 minutes, it should be automatic. (129) 

In 1075, under contract to the XRC. The Aero- 
space Corporation began to assess the effect of con- 
trol room design on operator performance during 
stressful conditions. (130) The study also briefly 
addressed the impact of operator training and 
emergency procedures on operator performance. 
Seven nuclear facilities were visited in the course 
of the study. 

In February 1977, The Aerospace Corporation 
issued its report, "Human Engineering of 
Nuclear Power Plant Control Rooms and Its Ef- 

33 An interoffice group of staff interested in human factors. See "Nuclear Regulatory Commission Organization," 
Appendix B, pp. 227ff. 


fects on Operator Performance." (131) It identi- 
fied several weaknesses in control room design, such 
as: (132) 

1. The layout of the controls and instru- 
ments combined with the number of actions 
required of an operator could lead to serious 
errors under accident conditions. 

2. The color systems used to indicate the 
status of equipment were confusing under 
both normal and accident conditions. 

3. Control panels that contain row upon row 
of identically shaped push buttons and/or 
switch handles may lead to operator error. 

The report questioned the usefulness of emer- 
gency procedures during stressful situations and 
emphasized the value of simulator training to pre- 
pare for emergencies. It, too, mentioned the limited 
number of control room simulators available for 
training and the fact that simulators were dissim- 
ilar from actual control rooms. (133) 

Major recommendations were: (134) 

1. The XRC should develop a Regulatory 
Guide to provide direction for utilities in hu- 
man factors engineering as applicable to 
control rooms and to encourage the use of ad- 
vanced concepts for controls and displays. 

2. Useful data should be collected on the 
nature and frequency of operator errors as 
part of an assessment of the effectiveness of 
different control room designs. 

3. A study should be conducted to determine 
whether available simulators are capable of 
providing operators with the training needed 
to minimize errors under conditions of severe 
stress. The study also should evaluate the ef- 
fectiveness of training on a simulator that does 
not realistically correspond to the actual lay- 
out of the control room. 

The report endorsed the use of mimic-type flow 
diagrams 34 on control panels to help operators un- 
derstand the relationship of key system compo- 
nents, as WP]] as the trend toward the use of 
cathode ray tube displays 35 and computers in the 
control room. (135) 

The report was widely distributed within the 
XRC in 1977. (136) However, according to 
Thomas Ippolito. Branch Chief in the Office of 
Xuclear Reactor Regulation, because of other pri- 
orities and limited resources, a Regulatory Guide 
was not developed, nor were follow-up studies 
conducted. (137) However. Sandia Laboratories, 
in an XRC-sponsored study, did start collecting 
data on operator error rates. 3 " (138) 

In March 1977. the Electric Power Research 
Institute (EPRI) 37 published a report on human 

factors. It was entitled "Human Factors Review of 
Nuclear Power Plant Control Room Design," 
(139) and was the result of a study carried out by 
the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, Inc. 
under contract with EPRI. Lockheed had con- 
ducted a survey at five representative control 
rooms at operating nuclear plants. The report cited 
significant problems relating to human factors, 
such as: (140) 

Certain instruments and controls could not 
be read easily because they were too high or 
too low, the lighting was poor and the labels 
were too small. 

The absence of standards for color codes, 
control dimensions, label descriptions and 
abbreviations promoted confusion. 
The control panel layouts lacked functional 
grouping of related controls and alarms. 
The layout of some control rooms hampered 
the operator's ability to respond to an inci- 

The large number of alarms distracted the 
operator from identifying and resolving a 

Written emergency procedures were in some 
cases incompatible with control room 

The report stated that the most convincing evi- 
dence of deficiencies in control room design were 
the design modifications that the operators had 
introduced to improve their response in emer- 
gencies. (141) 

The report had wide distribution within the 
NRC, and the NRC's Human Engineering Re- 
search Review Group held meetings to discuss it. 
(142) However, the NRC took no specific action. 

The various reports stressed common themes. 
They warned that inadequate attention was being 
paid to human factors engineering at nuclear 
power plants. They cautioned that the risk of hu- 
man error was increased by design features which 
were incompatible with the needs and capabilities 
of plant personnel. They repeatedly urged that de- 
sign standards and a Regulatory Guide be devel- 
oped in this area. 

In spite of these findings, the KRC did not issue 
the Guide. It gave as the primary reasons a heavy 
workload and limited budget for technical assist- 
ance. (144) Human factors engineering was as- 
signed a low priority, and other regulatory mat- 
ters took precedence. (145) 

The accident at Three Mile Island was to bear 
out many of the predictions made in the reports. 

31 A sketch of the system is superimposed on the control panel. Controls and indicators are placed on the panel at the 
positions on the sketch which correspond to their system function. 

35 A cathode ray tube display uses a tube similar to the picture tube in a television set. 

"This addresses the probability that an operator's action or task will not be completed successfully within the 
required time. 

31 EPRI is a research institute supported by electrical utility companies. 



Two senior officials of GPU and Met Ed ac- 
knowledged that Met Ed operations personnel had 
had limited participation in the design of the 
plant at the time construction was nearly com- 
plete. GPU President Herman Dieckamp stated : 

I think Met Ed people did, to some de- 
gree, participate in the design reviews, 
even though I am sure that was not as 
extensive as ... the operating people say 
they should have had. ( 146) 

Met Ed President Walter Creitz stated that: 

There were opportunities for general in- 
put available during the period of con- 
struction, and yet I must admit that some- 
times a person might observe a proposed 
change, and it could be too late ; maybe it 
wasn't identified on the drawing. (147) 
* * * 

... I remember walking through the 
plant with Gary Miller and/or Jack Her- 
bein, and various things might have been 
pointed out, like the valve example ; this 
shouldn't be here, it should be here, or we 
should have done this, or we should have 
done that. I guess you learn from experi- 
ence. Perhaps, it is just that man is not 
capable of putting down on paper the 
ultimate in what he would like to build. 



The TMI-2 reactor went critical on March 28, 
1978, one year to the day prior to the accident. Be- 
fore it went critical, the utility spent about a year 
conducting a number of tests to ensure that all sys- 
tems were functioning properly. Two problems oc- 
curred during this testing that would play a part 
in the March 28, 1979, accident. 

Problem with the Condensate Polishers 

On October 19, 1977, a problem arose that was 
almost identical to the one that triggered the 1979 
accident. The outlet valves on the condensate pol- 
ishers closed, and operators could not open the 
bypass valve from the control room because the 
control was inoperable. Instead, they had to open 
it manually. (149) The manual control station for 
the polisher bypass valve was, however, nearly in- 
accessible, and it took great effort, in a physically 
awkward position, to operate. (150) Later, it was 
found that water had entered the air lines; this 

was assumed to be the cause of the malfunctioning 
of the outlet valves. (151) 

Analysis of the Incident 

John Brummer, a TMI-2 electrical engineer, 
and Michael Ross, Unit 1 Supervisor of Operations 
at the time of the March 1979 accident, analyzed 
the event and prepared a memorandum. (152) 
They discussed the problem of water getting into 
the instrument air lines and suggested solutions to 
preclude a recurrence. The memorandum also 
stated a concern that if this malfunction were to 
occur while the plant was at power, the emergency 
feedwater system might be actuated, the turbine 
would trip and the reactor might trip as well. 

Brummer filed a problem report with R. J. 
Toole, Manager for Startup Testing for GPU, 
(154) to which he attached the memorandum. The 
problem report focused on possible solutions to 
the problem of water in the air lines and recom- 
mended installation of an automatic bypass valve 
in the system. 

Response by Management 
GPU did not implement this recommendation. 
Ronald P. Warren, a member of the Plant Opera- 
tions Review Committee, provided some insight 
into that decision : 

WARREN : I think it was because they said 
it was a plant improvement that really didn't 
have to be made. 

Question : Didn't they say it costs too much ? 
WARREN: They might have. That might 
have been a better way of putting it. (155) 
At the same time, GPU said that it would re- 
evaluate the problem of water in the lines after 
the plant had begun to produce power, in the be- 
lief that the problem might have originated with 
earlier flooding at the plant. (156) 

Problems with the condensate polishers per- 
sisted, 38 and at one point a full-time crew was as- 
sembled with one responsibility to work on the 
polishers. (157) Nevertheless, difficulties recurred. 
In fact, a crew was working on the system when it 
malfunctioned on March 28, 1979, initiating the 

The utility did not inform the NRC of the prob- 
lems with the condensate polishing system, and the 
Office of Inspection and Enforcement did not 
learn of the October 19, 1977 event until its in- 
vestigation following the March 28, 1979 accident. 
(158) However, the agency's reporting require- 
ment applied only to defects believed to affect 
safety. (159) According to the NRC, "problems 
related to the condensate-feedwater system were 
not considered by the licensee to be reportable be- 

M By design, the polishers have to be changed periodically (every couple of days). One is taken out and recharged, 
while another is rotated into its place. The procedure is difficult and has caused continuing problems, particularly in terms 
of maintaining proper flow through the system. 


cause the plant is designed to safely sustain a loss 
of normal feedwater." (160) Burns and Roe in- 
formed the Special Investigation by letter that 
it had been responsible for the development of the 
performance specifications and technical review 
of the bids for the condensate polishing system. 
The initial design provided that the outlet valves 
in the system would fail "as is" if the air system 
controlling them were to malfunction (e.g., if 
water were to enter the air lines) : ". . . [the! spec- 
ification [required! that the condensate polishing 
system valves fail 'as-is' upon loss of either instru- 
ment air or control [electrical! power." 39 (161) 

Burns and Roe stated that the utilitv had not 
told the company of the problems with the con- 
densate polishing system on or after October 19, 
lf>77. Burns and Roe did locate in its files a copy 
of a GPU Problem Report concerning the October 
19. 1977 occurrence, believed to have been sub- 
mitted in late 1978 in connection with another 
project. GPT had not asked Burns and Roe to take 
any action, and Burns and Roe did not provide any 
recommendations. (162) 

Burns and Roe implied in its letter to the Spe- 
cial Investigation that the valves may have failed 
closed because of a design change of which it was 
not informed. It wrote : 

. . . all outlet valves of the condensate 
polishing svstem had pll closed causing a 
complete loss of feedwater flow. In one 
case [this one!, the problem was asso- 
ciated with water in the instrument air 
lines . . . [This incident! indicate Fs] a 
discrepancy between the actual perform- 
ance of the condensate polishing system 
and our specification requirement. . . ." 

September 1977: Steam in the Hotlegs 

At one point during hot functional testing 40 in 
September 1977. steam became trapped in the hot- 
legs. The primary system seemed to be filled with 
water, but operators had difficulty establish- 
ing natural circulation. Two operators on dif- 
ferent shifts noted that the pressurizer level would 
increase when the pressurizer was vented in order 
to decrease primary system pressure. (164) This 
l>ehavior was unexpected. (165) At least one oper- 
ator suspected steam in the lines that measured the 
pressurizer level. (166) An operator on yet an- 
other shift deduced that the system not only had 
steam in the measuring lines, but in the hotlegs as 
well. (167) 

The operator? eventually corrected the situation 
by pumping nitrogen into the pressurizer. raising 

the pressure sufficiently to force water from the 
pressurizer into the hotlegs, thereby collapsing 
the steam bubble. (168) 

Babcock & Wilcox's site representative, 41 Le- 
land Rogers, explained the problem to Special In- 
vestigation staff : 

... a phenomenon had occurred [in this 
plant] where we had trapped a lot of 
hot water [steam! in the hotlegs, and 
subsequently had the rest of the system 
colder. And without the ability to run 
the reactor coolant pumps, which we did 
not have at that time [during hot func- 
tional testing! . we could not get the heat 
out of those hotlegs; even with the sys- 
tem filled with water, we could not move 
any heat from that. It's in a natural 
trapped condition. (169) 

Rogers attributed the problem of stagnation 
in the hotlegs to the "candy-cane" shape of the 

It was accepted as a condition because of 
the layout of the plant ... It has hap- 
pened at other B&W plants, so it was not 
a brand new problem. (170) 

The behavior of the pressurizer and primary 
system during this incident water level in the 
pressurizer increasing as pressure decreased was 
found to have occurred when steam formed in the 
system. (171) When these same conditions ap- 
peared on March 28. 1979, they were neither rec- 
ognized nor understood because details of this 
earlier incident apparently had not been com- 
municated to operators on duty during the acci- 


As noted, the TMI-2 reactor went critical on 
March 28. 1978. It was the first day of the normal 
operational testing phase that would continue for 
several months. Over this time the plant gradually 
would be brought up to full power and put in 

The unit experienced two minor accidents dur- 
ing this period, both of which in retrospect were 
significant in terms of the major accident that was 
to come in March 1979. 


The dav after going critical, with the unit at 
less than 1 percent power, a fuse blew in the plant's 
electrical system, and power was lost to an elec- 

" The post-accident investigations concluded that the valves did not fail "as is" on March 28, 1979. 
* Hot functional testing, performed prior to initial loading of nuclear fuel, is designed to verify the ability of the 
reactor coolant system to operate properly at pressures and tpmperatures comparable to those of normal operation. 
" A vendor frequently will assign a full-time representative to a plant to assist in operations. 
" See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 97-98, 105-108. 

trical control system associated with the pilot- 
operated relief valve (PORV) on the pressurizer. 43 
The system had been wired so that the PORV 
would open automatically if power were lost. (172) 
It did so, and water drained out of the primary 
coolant system. Pressure dropped from 2,188 psi 
to 1,173 psi. (173) The high pressure injection 
system actuated automatically. (174) 

Power was returned to the electrical system 
about four minutes after the transient began, and 
the PORV automatically closed. (175) Prior to 
that point, however, the operators had not known 
it was open because the TMI-2 control room did 
not have an indicator showing the valve's position. 

A PORV Indicator Installed 

In response to this minor incident, the electrical 
circuits were rewired so that the PORV would 
remain closed in the event of a loss of power in the 
electrical system. In addition, a position indicator 
for the PORV was installed in the control room. 
This indicator did not, however, provide a direct 
indication of the position of the valve. Instead, it 
was a command-type indicator that sensed whether 
an electric command was being sent to the valve, 
ordering it to open. If a signal to open were being 
sent, then an indicator light in the control room 
would be lit, suggesting to the operator that the 
valve had opened. Conversely, the absence of a 
light suggested it was closed. (177) 

James Floyd discussed the request made after 
the March 29 accident that a position indicator for 
the PORV be installed. He stated : 

Mot. Ed put in the problem report. We 
asked for valve position indication, the 
decision comes back from bosses that all 
we're going to get is command valve com- 
mand signal light. And he comes into the 
control room and he has to sell me on that, 
and if he can't sell me, then I'm going to 
raise a stink and push for what I wanted 
in the first place, or some compromise in 
between his position and mine. (178) 

Floyd later commented on his attitude toward 
management's oversight and response to the 
PORV issue. He said he "wasn't too happy" with 
the decision to install an indirect indicator, but 
added : 

. . . my reaction was not to raise a big 
stink and say, "Hey, I asked for valve 
position indication. That's what I 
want.". . . I was the type that is much 
more inclined to do things on a low-key 

basis and get them accomplished, rather 
than making a big fuss and not getting 
anywhere. (179) 

Other TMI-2 operators interviewed indicated 
that at the time they likewise accepted the decision 
to install a command-type position indicator 
rather than a direct indicator. According to Floyd 
and Faust, an indirect indicator was better than 
no indicator at all. (180) Zewe said that in a 
"generic sense" a direct indicator' would have been 
preferable, but that he never specifically raised the 
issue of having one installed. (181) 

Operators Requested a Change 

Nine months after the March 29, 1978 accident, 
in January 1979, the TMI-2 maintenance and en- 
gineering staffs requested a design change in the 
TMI-2 PORV position indicator. Joe Logan, the 
Unit Superintendent, Richard Bensel, a lead en- 
gineer, and Daniel Shovlin, Supervisor of Main- 
tenance, signed the request. They proposed that 
the indicator be modified so that a limit switch ** 
on the solenoid of the PORV would activate it. 
Although this modification still would not have 
provided a guaranteed indication of the PORV's 
position, it would have provided a more reliable 
indication than did the command-type indicator 
then in use. (182) 

The request for this change was forwarded for 
review to the Met Ed Generation Engineering De- 
partment in Reading. Pennsvlvania. Thnt depart- 
ment disapproved the proposed modification. In a 
March 16. 1979 memo to Shovlin. R, C. Noll of the 
Generation Engineering staff said that "After dis- 
cussing this modification with the TMI-2 staff, it 
has been agreed that this modification is not neces- 
sarv or required." (183) Bensel has stated that he 
and George Kunder, the Unit 2 Superintendent 
for Technical Support, had concluded that "the 
added indication . . . wouldn't have been that much 
better." (184) 

Since it is still not known what part of the 
PORV failed during the March 28, 1979 acci- 
dent, it cannot be determined whether the pro- 
posed modification would have shown that the 
PORV was stuck open. 


On April 23, 1978, the TMI-2 reactor expe- 
rienced a more severe problem while at 30 per- 
cent power. (185) According to a Met Ed analy- 
sis, (186^ a minor equipment malfunction caused 
the TMI-2 reactor and turbine to trip almost 
simultaneously. When the turbine tripped, pres- 
sure on the secondary side of the steam generators 

41 See "How the Plant Works," p. 30, for a description of how the PORV operates. 

44 The limit switch provides mechanical contact between the solenoid plunger and the solenoid housing when the 
solenoid plunger moves into the valve-open position. The command-type indicator just shows that a signal has been sent to 
move the solenoid plunger. 


increased, and some of the main steam safety re- 
lief valves opened. (187) Several failed to close, 
and pressure in the secondary system dropped 
rapidly. (188) 

Two other factors complicated the problem. 
First, the computer-controlled valves that regulate 
flow in the feedwater lines closed much more 
slowly than expected. (189) Second, the operators 
failed to throttle the feedwater pumps until 1 min- 
ute 20 seconds into this minor incident. (190) Thus 
an excessive amount of water flowed to the steam 
generators. (191) The result was rapid depressur- 
ization and cooldown of the primary system. (192) 
The coolant in that system contracted to such an 
extent that the pressurizer was emptied of water. 
A steam bubble then formed in the hotlegs of the 
primary system. (193) 

The operators started a second make-up pump, 
and shortly thereafter the high pressure in- 
jection system automatically activated. (194) 
These responses restored the water level in the 
pressurizer. and the operators eventually brought 
the plant to a stable condition. (195) 

Too Many Alarms 

Effective operator response had been hampered 
by a number of factors. Several hundred alarms 
had activated so quicklv that the operators had to 
ignore them temporarily and concentrate on the 
gauges that measured kev plant conditions. (196) 
Further, the computer that printed out the acti- 
vation of alarms in sequence became backlogrged. 
(197) In Frederick's words, the alarms "were not 
being typed out fast enough to be of use in eval- 
uating the transient." (198) Only after the oper- 
ators had ascertained that the plant was stable did 
they turn to the alarms. 

Faust said that as a result of this minor accident. 
he concluded that the alarm svstem would be "use- 
ful" onlv if no more than three or four alarms 
were activated. (199) If more came on. ". . . then 
you had to nick through them to find the ones that 
were significant. It took too much time." (200) 
That had been his experience on April 23 "it 
was just useless to try to really sort out all the 
alarms that were coming in.'' (201) 

Frederick agreed : "I was forced to ignore most 
of the alarms." and commented that he had to rely 
on the information presented by the gauges on the 
control panels. (202) He noted: 

. . . with that much alarm information. 

the information begins to lose its value . . . 

the flood of information has no priority 

and no time sequence. (203) 

Analysis of the Accident 

Shortly after the April 23, 1978 accident, James 
Seelinger, the Technical Support Superintendent 
for TMI-2. prepared a detailed analysis of it. 
(204) He identified a number of equipment fail- 
ures that had contributed to the incident, includ- 
ing failures or deficiencies in the main steam 
safety relief valves, the main feedwater block 
valves and the emergency feedwater control valves. 

In addition, although he praised the operators 
for their response to the reactor trip and actuation 
of high pressure injection, he was critical of two 
other aspects of their performance: their failure 
to slow the feedwater pumps sooner and to diag- 
nose the accident correctly. (206) As a result of the 
latter failure, he concluded that some of their re- 
sponses had been inappropriate : 

While the operators responded correctly 
to the reactor trip, they did not realize the 
casualty they were really dealing with 
was a major steam leak (through the re- 
lief valves). 

The operators during the transient 
never fully grasped the damaging effect 
of feedwater on this situation. . . . (207) 
In his report. Seelinger noted that indicators of 
several "critical operator items" were needed in 
the control room and recommended they be in- 
stalled. (208) They included position indicators 
for the main steam safety relief valves, feedwater 
block valves and emergency feedwater control 
valves, (209) However, in his report Seelinger 
never associated the lack of indicators on the po- 
sitions of the valves with the operators' inappro- 
priate responses. (210) 

Seelinger recommended that an effort be made 
to reduce the number of "nuisance"' alarms that 
would activate while the plant was operating nor- 
mally. 45 (217) He also recommended that addi- 
tional alarm acknowledgment stations be added in 
the control room. (218) His report did not dis- 
cuss whether these features had contributed to the 

Response by the Operators 

Seelinger's analysis was distributed to control 
room operators at TM 1-2. Three of those present 
in the control room during the accident Ed 
Frederick. Hugh McGovern and Craig Faust 
discussed the report and the accident. (219) 

Frederick responded to Seelinger's criticisms, 
(220) Although Frederick said his letter to 

* Nuisance alarms are alarms that remain activated in the control rnom during periods of normal operations. (211) 
They can he actirated as a result of faulty wiring or if the sensors that trigger the alarms are overly sensitive. (212) In 
addition, some alarms are wired to activate in response to routine actions of operators, such as turning off a pump. (213) 
Many can remain lit for extended periods. (214) 

Zewe stated that in 1978 at times over 100 "nuisance alarms" would be lit in the TMI-2 control room. Electrical 
engineer John Brummer estimated the average was about 70. (215) For comparative purposes, the TMI-1 control room 
typically had about five nuisance alarms lit. (216) 


Seelinger represented only his views, Faust said 
that Frederick had showed it to him and that he 
agreed with it. (221) In Faust's opinion, See- 
linger's analysis 

. . . seemed to be pointing a heavy finger 
at the operators as the cause of some of 
the problems we had at the time in that 
transient and we were just saying that 
not all the indications that we could have 
used were available to us at the time. . . . 

Frederick said he wrote Seelinger on May 3, 
1978 in order to identify "the problems that I saw 
in the accident, that I didn't think were touched 
by his evaluation." (223) In his letter he com- 
mented on the alarm system : 

The alarm svstem in the control room is 
so poorly designed that it contributed 
little in analysis of a casualty. The other 
operators and myself have several sug- 
gestions on how to improve our alarm 
system perhaps we can discuss them 
sometime preferably before the system 
as it is causes severe problems. (224) 

Frederick said he intended that Seelinger would 
assign an engineer to work with the operators "on 
a long-term basis" to correct the problems. (225) 

Elsewhere in his letter Frederick challenged 
Seelinger's analysis of the causes of the accident : 

I feel that the mechanical failure, poor 
system designs, and improperly prepared 
control systems were very much more the 
mai'or cause of this incident than was op- 
erator action. 

You might do well to remember that 
this is only the tip of the iceberg. Inci- 
dents like this are easy to get into and 
the best operators in the world can't 
compensate for multiple casualties which 
are complicated by mechanical and con- 
trol failures. (226) 

Frederick said that by "improperly prepared 
control systems," he meant the absence of several 
important valve position indicators in the con- 
trol room. (227) In Frederick's words. "We 
couldn't see all the valves that were necessary to 
control the system." (228) 

Frederick closed his letter with the following 
comments : 

Some of our suggestions are good. We 
made siurcrestions on FW [feedwaterl 
valve indication 2 years ago (submitted 
many FCR's) . We have complained about 
the alarm system since day one. Let's get 
together and try to prevent this from 
happening again. 46 (229) 

Seelinger replied to Frederick's letter the same 
day. (230) He reemphasized that the operators' 
response had been "good and proper." (231) As 
to the alarm svstem, he stated that Frederick's con- 
cerns were addressed by the recommendations in 
Seelinger's report on the accident. (232) In re- 
sponse to Frederick's "tip of the iceberg" com- 
ment and his concerns about the difficulties op- 
erators had in responding to accidents such as that 
of April 23. 1978, Seelincrer commented, "the abil- 
ity to do this comes with experience, and I think 
the operators who had this transient performed 
well considering their experience." (233) 

Frederick told Special Investigation staff that 
he believed he was "fairly pacified" by Seelinger's 
response. (234) However. Fanst said that he and 
Frederick "didn't exactly like the response we got 
back." (235) Faust added that at the time. Fred- 
erick thought that "what we were asking about or 
mentioning just wasn't going to have too much fol- 
lowup. . . ." (236) 

According to Frederick, after receiving See- 
linger's response, he had one brief, informal dis- 
cussion with him about their letters and See- 
linger's analysis. (237) However, they "never had 
the meeting that I requested about the alarm sys- 
tem." (238) 

Design Modifications 

TMI-2 was shut down for approximately four 
months after the April 23 accident. (239) During 
that period, the utility tested and ultimately re- 
placed the main steam safety relief valves. (240) 
TMI-2 control room operators said that their 
emergency procedures were also revised in an at- 
tempt to ensure they would not overfeed the steam 
generators in the event of a similar accident. (241) 
The revised procedures and the April 23 incident 
were discussed in operator training programs at 
TMI. (242) 

With respect to control room instrumentation, 
the utility installed position indicators in the con- 
trol room for the valves in the feedwater system. 
(243) In addition, it set up a microphone in the 
vicinitv of the main steam safety relief valves and 
wired it to a sneaker in the control room so that 
onerators could hear when the valves were open. 

Changes in the Alarm System 

As to the alarm system, Floyd said that after the 
accident, the operations staff requested the instal- 
lation of several additional alarm acknowledge- 
ment buttons in the control room. (245) They 
wanted each to acknowledge only the alarms in a 
certain section of the control room. (246) This 
would lessen the chance of an operator inadvert- 
ently acknowledging new alarms coming into the 
control room during a transient while clearing 

'FCR's Field Change Requests nre one of the formal means by which operators can request design changes. 


previously acknowledged alarms, since he would be 
working only with one section of the control room 
at a time. 

The utility installed several additional buttons, 
but they still acknowledged all the alarms in the 
control room. (247) Management's rationale was 
that this system would be easier for operators 
moving around the control room. (248) 

Evidence reviewed by the Special Investigation 
indicates that the addition of the acknowledge- 
ment buttons was the only design change in the 
TMI-2 alarm system made specifically in response 
to the April 23 accident. (249) Beyond that, in late 
1978 and early 1979. Met Ed and B&W engineers 
did reduce the number of "nuisance alarms." as 
Seelinger had recommended. Nevertheless, just be- 
fore the March 28. 1979 accident began, about 50 
of those alarms were activated. (250) 

Operator* Dissatisfied 

Even with these modifications, operators were 
still dissatisfied with the alarm system. Floyd said 
that no effort had been made to restructure the 
alarm system so that the operators could identify 
and react quickly to the most important alarms. 
(251) He concluded that such an approach 
"wasn't recognized as being necessary" and added. 
"I don't know that it was really a recognized need 
until this transient on March 28, [1979].* (252) 

Alarms To Be Ignored 

One result of their dissatisfaction with the alarm 
system was that Faust. Frederick and Zewe said 
they would not acknowledge alarms activated dur- 
ing the initial stages of a complicated transient. 
(-253) They knew that they would not be able to 
read all the alarms and respond to the situation 
at the same time. If they wore to acknowledge the 
alarms without first reading them, they might in- 
advertently clear some without noticing they had 
been activated. (254) 

Tn an interview with Special Investigation staff. 
Floyd confirmed that the TMI-2 operators had de- 
cided not to acknowledge anv alarms during the 
early stages of a transient. He said he considered 
this approach to lie acceptable, since all the occur- 
rences prior to March 28. 1979 had been of very 
short duration : 

. . . the reactor trips and it's all over. 
Thirty seconds, and it takes the operator 
two minutes to realize that it's over. And 
then he can scan his board and put the 
plant back together again. (255) 
Floyd did not specifically recall telling oper- 
ators after the April 23 accident to "ignore" the 
alarms during a mai'or transient, although he 
said. "I certainly wouldn't be surprised if I did." 
(256) He commented : 

If the man came up to me and said, "Hey, 
the alarms are absolutely worthless dur- 
ing this transient." I would say, "Yes, 
they always are, but you got these meters 
and recorders over here. They are what 
are going to keep you out of trouble. Go 
ahead and ignore those overhead alarms, 
but pay attention down here. This is 
where it's at." (257) 

In Zewe's opinion, the alarms would not, in any 
event, play a "major role" in operator efforts to 
diagnose a major accident : 

. . . I've been involved in several tran- 
sients and we handled them pretty much 
the same, whereas we didn't use the 
alarms and accepted what we had and we 
just used it to the best of our ability. 

Zewe did. however, note one problem with fail- 
ing to acknowledge the alarms as they were acti- 
vated. (259) The operators would not know the 
sequence of their activation. (260) Given that 
the computer alarm printer would become back- 
logged during a major transient, 47 there would be 
no way to obtain the complete alarm sequence, 
probably until the transient was over. 

The ability to reconstruct a sequence of alarms 
is an important analytical tool for an operator 
faced with a complex transient. As Frederick 

... if [an operator] makes a misjudg- 
ment early on in the accident, he has the 
ability to review the effect of that mis- 
judgment on the trend as a whole and 
retrace the steps: start a more logical 
strain, have more logical information 
[on which] to base his decisions. (261) 

On March 29. 1979 the operators would have the 
same problems with the alarms as they had dur- 
ing the March 1978 accident. Frederick noted that 
most operators simply did not use the visiial and 
computer alarm systems in the early stages of a 
transient : 

The general consensus and the training 
that we received, that led most of the op- 
erators to not use the computer as a source 
of information during a transient, you 
could use it after things settled down, but 
during the first phase of any transient, 
you would just have to go by the infor- 
mation available on the panel, since 
neither the [annunciator] nor the com- 
puter will be able to give vou good time 
sequence and prioritized alarm informa- 
tion. (262) 

' Computer alarm deficiencies are discussed in greater detail on p. 71. 


According to Frederick, he was also concerned 
about the alarms on the back control panels that 
were completely out of sight of the main con- 
trol console. He noted that if the alarms on the 
front and the back control panels were to come on 
simultaneously, the operators could acknowledge 
the front panel alarms without necessarily notic- 
ing those on the back panel. (263) 

Frederick stated that he believed the TMI-2 
control room alarm system could have been de- 
signed to be useful during a major accident: 

We need an alarm system that is designed 
to be useful during analyzing one of these 
problems. We need alarms that are mean- 
ingful. In other words, you need an alarm 
that tells you when you have lost a feed 
pump, but you don't need one that tells 
you that there is trouble in the turbine 
building elevator. Out of the 1200 or 1600 
alarms that are displayed up there, I am 
sure we could narrow that down to 100 
or 200 without losing any vital indica- 
tions. The need to acknowledge wouldn't 
be necessary. (264) 

Thus, prior to the accident on March 28, it is 
clear that the operators had decided that the alarm 
system would not be of any immediate assistance 
in a major transient or an accident. On March 28 
the operators acknowledged the alarms in the early 
moments to silence them, but did not read them. 48 

The Usefulness of an Alarm System 
In their statements, several operators suggested 
that an alarm system was not really important in 
an accident. Floyd made a number of comments 
on this issue. He said that the March 28, 1979 ac- 
cident made him realize that operators cannot 
themselves handle the "information overload" 
created by the activation of several hundred alarms 
during the first minutes of a transient. The op- 
erator : 

. . . needs the prioritization to take place 
automatically for him . . . you have to 
give the operator some assistance to sort 
out those several hundred alarms which 
are coming in so very rapidly, all of them 
calling for his attention, when, in fact, he 
should only be paying attention to a half 
dozen of them. (265) 

At the same time, Floyd recognized that the 
operator would have to work with his other instru- 
mentation and equipment : 

There's an information overload during 
a transient that the control room operator 
has to live through. And neither the an- 
nunciators nor . . . the high-speed printer 

is going to get him out of that difficulty. 
The information overload is going to be 
there and he lias to go back and rely on 
his console indication on the meters, on 
temperature, pressure, flow and power . . . 
Whether it's a short-term transient or a 
long-term transient, he's got to pay atten- 
tion to those big four. That's funda- 
mental. (266) 

Floyd elaborated on this point. Even if the 
alarm system were structured so that operators 
could react quickly to important alarms, 

. . . the operator is still not going to run 
his control room based on the alarms in 
the transient ; he's going to run the control 
room based on the panel indication. He 
has to. That's the only thing that's in the 
real time. (267) 

He added that 

. . . you don't want to try to cure all the 
operator's problems with a sophisticated 
alarm system . . . [although] you can 
do some additional sophistication that we 
don't have, to get him pointed in the right 
direction, to maybe help explain what 
those four big meters are supposed to be 
telling him already in the console. (268) 

When Zewe was asked if the instrumentation 
had caused the failure of control room personnel 
to diagnose the stuck open PORV on March 28, 
1979, he replied : 

It is pretty hard to say. but I think it is 
a matter of a combination [of things]. 
I think you could pick any certain area 
and say, "Yes, we should improve that 
area and instrumentation, improve the 
procedures we use. improve this or look 
at something else." All of that certainly 
had a factor and to what degree depends 
on whose evaluation it is. So I could ra- 
tionalize and say, "Yes, I think there were 
many things we could have done better," 
certainly without a doubt. And through 
every instrument we had [.] I think wo 
had all the mechanisms we needed to cope 
with the situation at this point, but there 
were certainly things that could be im- 
proved upon that would cause more 
awareness or recognition of the problem; 
yes. (269) 

He concluded : 

I feel the plant is of a good design, that it 
is adequate. I feel the training was good 
and adequate. There again, I felt the in- 
strumentation Avas adequate, too. Like I 

' See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," p. 99. 


mentioned before, everything needs fur- 
ther improvement. We can always use 
that (270) 


Control Room Computers 

Some alarms are not represented by flashing 
lights in the control room, but instead appear only 
on the computer printout. (271) One such alarm 
that played a role in the March 28, 1979 accident 
was the alarm indicating a high water level in the 
containment sump. (272) 

The computer in the TMI-2 control room is a 
Bailey 855. (273) It has two printers similar in 
appearance to electric typewriters. (274) One 
prints out system conditions on request : the other 
prints out alarm information, at a rate of approxi- 
mately 14 alarm messages per minute. (275) If the 
alarms are activated faster than that, they are 
stored in sequence in a memory bank that can hold 
a total of 1.365 alarm messages. (276) The com- 
puter will automatically print out the alarm mes- 
sages in the memory bank until the backlog is re- 
duced to zero. ( 277 1 

Scheimann. Faust and Frederick noted prior 
to the March 28 accident that the computer alarm 
printer would become backlogged during routine 
reactor and turbine trips. (278) Frederick stated 
that it "can be as much as an hour behind on just 
the turbine trip." (279) Zewe likewise said he 
knew it would become backlogged during "major" 
transients. (280) Faust and Frederick both stated 
that the printer became backlogged during the 
April 23. 1978 transient. (281) 

As noted, determining the sequence of alarms 
can be important to diagnosing an accident and re- 
sponding properly. The computer could be of as- 
sistance in that determination. Because of the back- 
log problem, however, operators recognized that 
the TMI-2 computer would be of little help. In 
Zewe's words. 

During any major transient. I would to- 
tally ignore the alarm typewriter, know- 
ing from past experience that it would 
backlog and I wasn't interested or con- 
cerned in past history, more so in current 
parameters. So I would only use the com- 
puter for current parameters or until it 
caught up to the real time frame of the 
alarm, then I would start to use it in a 
normal one-on-one fashion. (282) 

Leakage of the Pilot-Operated Relief Valve 

Since October 1978. the pilot-operated relief 
valve (PORV) had been leaking. (283) as indi- 
cated by high temperatures in the discharge line 
leading from the valve to the reactor coolant drain 
tank. Temperatures, usually a little below 130 F. 
were averaging around 170 F or 180 F during 
normal operation, a little below the 200 F point at 
which an alarm indicating a high temperature 
sounds in the control room. Prior to the 1979 acci- 
dent, plant personnel were aware of some leakage, 
but were not certain whether it was the PORV or 
one of the two code safety valves on the pressur- 
izer. (284) 

Emergency Procedure 2202-1.5. "Pressurizer 
System Failure," requires that plant personnel re- 
spond to suspected PORV leakage by closing a 
"block" valve located in front of the PORV and to 
suspected code safety valve leaka'ge by recording 
their discharge line temperatures on an analog 
trend recorder, if temperatures exceed 130 F. 

The utility had neither closed the block valve, 
nor used the recorder, nor repaired the leak- 
ing valve prior to the March 29. 1979 accident. 
(286) Frederick said there had been some con- 
sideration of closing the block valve: (287) but 
this was not done because of the possibility of its 
sticking in the closed position. 49 (288) 

The actions of the control room personnel on 
March 28. 1979 indicate that they had become ac- 
customed to the elevated temperatures produced 
by the leakage. That, combined with their knowl- 
edge that the PORV had lifted briefly, releasing 
more hot steam and water and raising the tem- 
perature still further, and the fact that the indirect 
indicator light in the control room went out. ac- 
cording to the control room personnel, misled 
them into thinking the valve was closed. (289) For 
more than two hours, they did not recognize that 
the PORV was stuck open. 50 (290) 

Inspectors from the XRC's regional office had 
conducted 25 inspections of varying types at 
TMI-2 between October 1978 and the March 1979 
accident. The inspectors never noted the leakage 
from the PORV. (291) The XRC explained that 
the alarm setpoint of 200 F was never reached, 
and that an inspector doing an audit type of in- 
spection would not have been expected to note the 
elevated temperature, unless the alarm had gone 
off. (292) 

See "Recovery at Three Mile Island." pp. 210-211. Most of the civil penalty of $155.000 the XRC assessed Met Ed for 
violations can be attributed to the utility's failure to respond to the leakage as required. 

In connection with this same leakage, in 1980 the XRC asked the Department of Justice to investigate allegations by 
Harold Hartman. a former TMI control room operator, that the utility had manipulated the calculations of the rate of 
leakage in order to get figures within the limit set by the Technical Specification governing plant operations. According to 
Hartman. plant personnel added water to the coolant in the primary system and altered the hydrogen overpressure in the 
make-up tank but did not include those changes in conditions in the calculations. 

" See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day." pp. 95-109. 


If the leakage had been severe enough to neces- 
sitate repairing the PORV, the utility would have 
to have shut the plant down. In that event, the 
utility would have been required to notify the NRC 
of the leakage. (293) 

Frequent Actuation of High Pressure Injection 

Actuation of the high pressure injection (HPI) 
system indicates a potentially severe problem, 
since it is designed to replace coolant lost during 
a small loss-of-coolant accident. The system auto- 
matically comes on when primary system pressure 
falls to 1,640 psi, ordinarily reached only during 
a loss-of-coolant accident. (294) 

At TMI-2, however, the HPI system had actu- 
ated four times in the 12 months prior to March 
1979 in response to relatively routine problems in 
the secondary system, rather than to loss-of-cool- 
ant conditions. 51 (295) TMI-2 operators had be- 
come accustomed to initiation of HPI under less 
severe conditions. In the words of TMI shift super- 
visor Ken Bryan, "It is not a big deal" for the 
HPI system to activate at TMI-2 during a tur- 
bine/reactor trip. (296) 

The NRC Office of Inspection and Enforcement 
noted in. its investigative report of the accident 
that "the operators were not surprised by HPI 
actuation." (297) Further, "the operators were 
conditioned to promptly bypass ES [engineered 
safety! without first determining the condition of 
the RCS [reactor coolant svsteml." 52 (299) 

It can be inferred from the NRC's findings that, 
on the day of the accident, the control room person- 
nel throttled the HPI severely without determin- 
ing if there were a loss of coolant because of their 
past experience with its initiation. 

The utility had reported the previous HPI ac- 
tivations to the NRC. (300) Each was, in turn, 
reported in NTJREG-0020, "Operating Unit 
Status Report," better known as the Grey Book, 
and was analyzed by personnel in the regional of- 
fices. (301) The analysis of the HPI activations 
focused, however, on the effect of the addition of 
sodium hydroxide, a chemical added to the in- 
jected water, on the system, rather than on the 
fact that HPI came on for other than loss-of- 
coolant conditions. (302) 

In response to the HPI problem, the low pres- 
sure reactor trip setpoint was raised 100 psi to 
1,900 psi and the point at which HPI could be 
bypassed was raised by 100 psi to help reduce un- 
necessary actuations. (303) The NRC issued no 
special notification to other utilities of the prob- 
lem. (304) 

Babcock & Wilcox also looked into the actuation 
of HPI at TMI, but took no action to limit its ac- 

tivation under non-loss-of-coolant conditions, 
(305) nor did it notify other utilities with B&W 
systems of the problem. (306) 

The Special Investigation staff discussed with 
the NRC the possibility that operators might se- 
cure HPI in a loss-of-coolant accident if they were 
accustomed to the system starting in response to 
feedwater problems. (307) An NRC official ex- 
pressed concern, although for a different reason. 
(308) In a loss-of-coolant accident, the reactor 
coolant pumps should be shut off to slow the rate 
at which coolant is lost from the system. NRC staff 
is seeking unambiguous signs that will alert the 
operator to a loss of coolant so that the operator 
will know to shut the pumps off. One sign could be 
HPI, but only if the system were to come on just 
for losses of coolant. (309) NRC staff has stated 
that the Special Investigation staff's concern about 
operator conditioning is valid and complementary 
to its concern. (310) 


During the three years from 1976 until the 
March 1979 accident, TMI operators and super- 
visors became aware of several weaknesses in the 
design of the control room and its instrumenta- 
tion. Most of those problems became apparent dur- 
ing several minor accidents that occurred at the 
plant during operational testing in 1978. Many 
played a role in the March 1979 accident. However, 
according to Zewe, although instrumentation and 
procedures could have been improved, the person- 
nel "had all the mechanisms we needed to cope 
with the situation" on March 28, 1979. (311) 

The history of TMI-2 provides a good exam- 
ple of the consequences of the lack of attention 
given to human factors engineering in control 
room design. In various events that occurred dur- 
ing early operations, the TMI-2 control room 
alarm system overwhelmed operators with infor- 
mation and failed to assist them in diagnosing the 
situation. Although the deficiencies of the alarm 
system were of obvious concern to several control 
room operators, the TMI-2 Supervisor of Opera- 
tions was less concerned, since he believed that 
during a transient the operators would have to 
concentrate on indicators of plant conditions, and 
not on the alarms. Others shared his opinion. 

Control room personnel had identified other 
problems as well. These problems also influenced 
events on the day of the accident. They involved : 

1. The condensate polishing system; 

2. The configuration of the hotleg piping, 
which could trap steam, blocking the flow of 
coolant and causing unusual plant behavior; 

81 The March 29, 1978 incident evolved into a loss of coolant accident after the POKV stuck open. 
52 The report also said that "the normol course of n>ost ES initiations, those which did not involve a loss of coolant, 
required bypassing of ES and securing of HPI. . . ." (298) 


3. The leakage through the pilot -operated 
relief valve : and 

4. The actuation of the high pressure in- 
jection system under non-loss-of -coolant con- 

Neither the utility, its suppliers nor the XKC re- 
sponded to these problems in a way that effectively 
prevented their recurrence. 


A critical element in the safe operation of nu- 
clear powerplants is the preparedness of plant 
personnel, particularly the operators and supervi- 
sors. As became evident on March 28, 1979, the 
TMI-2 operators and supervisors were not ade- 
quately prepared to diagnose and respond to the 
accident. In light of this, the Special Investigation 
reviewed briefly the training provided to utility 
personnel. 53 

In general, operator training at TMT empha- 
sized plant operations under normal conditions and 
response onlv to selected "standard" accidents. Op- 
erator? had limited instruction or practice in diag- 
nosing and responding to multiple failure acci- 
dents, particularly prolonged ones, such as oc- 
curred on March 28. 

Further, their emergencv procedures, which 
thev had been trained to use in unusual situations, 
did not provide needed guidance in the first hours 
of the accident. In addition, the operators had in- 
sufficient instruction on the basics of nuclear 
powerplant phvsics and behavior. This contrib- 
uted to the difficulty they had in diagnosing and 
resnonding to the accident. 

Although the utility is largely responsible for 
the inadeo^iacy of operator training, the reactor 
vendor, which helped develop the training pro- 
gram, and the XRC. whose involvement in train- 
ing was too limited, are also responsible for the 


Operators are required to have specialized edu- 
cation and training and to be licensed by the NTJC. 
Training i= conducted by the utility, frequently in 
com'unction with the suppliers of plant systems. 
In the case of Unit 2 operators. Met Ed had con- 
tracted with Babcock & Wilcox to provide certain 
portion? of the operator training program. (312) 
The contract called for classroom and simulator 
instruction for trainees. The courses were both 
developed and taught by the B&TV training de- 
partment. (313) 

Weaknesses in the Training Program 

There were several significant weaknesses in the 
TMI operator training program that made it dif- 
ficult on March 28, 1979, for the control room per- 
sonnel to understand and respond to the sequence 
of events. 

Orientation of Training 

For the most part, training was geared to nor- 
mal plant operations and to the hypothetical acci- 
dents postulated in the Final Safety Analysis Ke- 
port submitted to the AEC. (314) Of significance 
in the context of the TMI accident, the program 
included only limited training in multiple-fail- 
ure events and events of prolonged duration. (315) 

Emergency Procedures 

In addition, although the operators had been 
trained extensively with the emergency proce- 
dures, none of those procedures precisely antici- 
pated the actual chain of events at TMI-2. 54 
Faust stated : 

That is what we were having a big prob- 
lem with that day, trying to follow limits 
set forth in our tech specs [Technical 
Specifications], as well as our Emergency 
Procedures, where we were having a diffi- 
cult time doing that because we saw some- 
thing diverse, something different from 
what our training had taught us in the 
past. (316) 

Further, the sequence of events at the start of 
the accident was much different than what the op- 
erators had studied and from what they expected. 
Zewe commented on his training for loss of cool- 
ant accidents: 

... If you look at any LOCA Floss-of- 
coolant accident] we've ever had, if you 
have . . . pressure in the building, and 
also reactor coolant system pressure, 
they're within seconds of each other. 

During the accident these events seemed dis- 
jointed to the operators. 55 

Duration of Accidents 

The TMI-2 accident also lasted longer than 
anticipated. The operators found it difficult to 
reconstruct events over that extended period and 
to assess their evolution. Instead, operators fo- 
cused on the state of the reactor at a given moment. 
As Scheimann stated : 

In the event that we had an emergency 
that didn't fall within the scope of an 
emergency procedure, the thing we would 

The President's Commission and the XRC Special Inquiry examined operator training extensively. The Special 
Investigation independently reviewed their materials and findings, as well as materials and interviews it compiled. 

14 It should be noted that written procedures are based on certain foreseeable circumstances and are not meant to 
cover all possible situations or to substitute for operator training in responding to unforeseen situations. 

* See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day." pp. 102-103. 


54-058 0-80-6 

do would be to treat the symptoms, in 
other words, respond to what we were 
seeing in front of us. If pressure were de- 
creasing, we would try to increase pres- 
sure, and vice versa. . . . (318) 

Basics of Plant Operations 

Training was deficient in the basics of nuclear 
powerplant physics and behavior. As is detailed 
in the next chapter, the unusual behavior of the 
plant wa's neither understood nor quickly diag- 
nosed. For example, control room personnel failed 
to appreciate the significance of the data on pres- 
sure and temperature indicating saturated steam 
conditions in the core. Marshall Beers, Met Ed 
Group Supervisor of Nuclear Training, explained 
that saturation conditions in the core were not 
anticipated as long as pressurizer level was main- 
tained. He added that, prior to the March 28 acci- 
dent, operators were not trained for saturation 
conditions in the core, although in hindsight these 
conditions might possibly have existed during 
previous reactor trips at TMI. (319) He further 
noted : 

. . . the significance of temperature- 
pressure and the possibility of uncover- 
ing the core under these types of condi- 
tions . . . was never specifically taught 
[to the operators]. (320) 

In addition, while several of the control room 
personnel recognized as early as 10 a.m. on the 
first day of the accident that superheated condi- 
tions were present, the Special Investigation staff 
found no evidence that they linked that condition 
to core uncovering. 

Pressurizer Level 

Operators had not been instructed that under 
certain conditions the pressurizer level would be 
an unreliable indicator of water level in the re- 
actor vessel. In addition, their training led them 
to believe that as long as there was adequate water 
in the pressurizer, there had to be adequate cool- 
ing water around the core. (321) This belief , along 
with the standing instruction never to permit the 
pressurizer to "go solid" (fill completely with 
water) during plant operations, led the operators 
to throttle high pressure injection early in the ac- 
cident. (322)' 

Zewe, a TMI-2 operator who was on duty the 
day of the accident, said he was confused over why 
the pressurizer level stayed high in the earlv hours 
of the accident, even though coolant level should 
have been decreasing as a result of the throttling 

of high pressure injection and increased drainage 
of coolant through the let-clown system. (323) Sim- 
ilarly, James Floyd, TMI-2 Operation Supervi- 
sor, said, ". . . to see the pressurizer level high and 
the plant pressure low was just a situation that . . . 
was never prepared for." (324) 

Use of Instrumentation 

The operators had not been familiarized with 
the use of the movable incore detector, a com- 
ponent of the plant's nuclear instrumentation that 
could have been used as an alternative means of 
detecting core uncovery. (325) Special Investiga- 
tion staff interviews revealed that some utility em- 
ployees who might have been expected to be knowl- 
edgeable about the use of the detector Met Ed's 
instrumentation foremen and technicians did not 
even consider the device to be the property of the 
utility : 

... As far as I was concerned, it was not 
part of our equipment. The only time I 
have seen it in operation was when B&W 
people were moving it up and down. The 
Metropolitan Edison instrument men 
never had anything to do with it. It was in 
a separate cabinet all to itself over by the 
side. (326) 

Other utility personnel had never seen the de- 
tector used, and no one the Special Investigation 
staff interviewed recalled its being discussed or 
considered on March 28, 1979. 56 (327) 

Further, the control room personnel were not 
trained to use the fixed neutron detectors to de- 
termine water level in the core. 57 (328) 

The remaining nuclear instrumentation avail- 
able on March 28, 1979 were the source and inter- 
mediate range monitors, which measure neutron 
activity in the core. The operators were not 
trained to use them to determine if the core is un- 
covered. (329) Rather, they were instructed to use 
the monitors when bringing the reactor back to 
full power following a shutdown (for this rea- 
son they are referred to as "start-up" monitors). 58 

The Simulator 

An important part of the training program in- 
volved practice on a reactor simulator. This was 
done at the B&W facility in Lynchburg, Va. 

The simulator is a computerized mock con- 
trol room that can reproduce events that occur in 
a nuclear powerplant. However, the B&W simula- 
tor differed in significant ways from the control 
room at TMI-2. (331) For example, it was smaller 

M See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," p. 112. 

" Part of the reason for not relying on the fixed incore neutron detectors is that under normal operating conditions, 
accurate readings are produced by the control room computer only if the reactor is above 15 percent power. When a 
reactor is shut down following a reactor "trip," normally there would not be enough current for the computer to produce 
readings of neutron activity in the core. As a result, the operators tended not to rely on the neutron detectors when the 
reactor was at a low power. 

* See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 111-112, 117-118, for further details. 


The Babcock & Wilcox simulator, used in training operators of Three Mile Island 

and more compact. It did not have nearly as many 
alarms (150 vs. 1,200), and all the electrical distri- 
bution instrumentation was on one panel, instead 
of taking up one-third of all the panel space, as 
in the control room at TMI-2. (332) Further, the 
simulator was not programmed to reproduce all 
the emergency conditions an operator might pos- 
sibly have to address, (333) including the sequence 
of eVents experienced during the March 28, 1979 

As was noted, the program did not include ex- 
tensive training in multiple failure events. Craig 
Faust and William Zewe, two TMI-2 operators 
who were on duty March 28, 1979, commented on 
their simulator training in this area. Faust 
said, ". . . we didn't train for multiple casual- 
ties." (334) Zewe said that prior to the accident, 
he had been trained "only to a limited extent" in 
multiple failures at the B&W simulator. (335) He 
added. "Maybe we would have two failures or one 
failure and we caused another one by how we re- 
acted to it. but not to the extent which they train 

now, to where they will give you . . . several fail- 
ures in a row, not like that, no." (336) 

The lack of attention to multiple failure events 
was the result in part of the NRC's single failure 
criterion. According to this criterion, the licensee 
only had to assume a limited number of concurrent 
failures in the analysis of certain accidents. 59 Its 
operators would be trained accordingly. (337) 


On completion of their training, operators must 
be licensed by the NRC before they can operate the 
plant. They must pass oral and written examina- 
tions administered by the Operator Licensing 
Branch (OLE) of the NRC's Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation, the unit responsible for the 
operator licensing program. (338) The TMI-2 
operators on duty on March 28 had all scored above 
average on the exams. 

The NRC's licensing requirements for operator 
training are contained in Part 55 of Title 10 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations. 60 These provisions 

59 These events are spelled out in Chapter 15 of the Safety Analysis Report. 

* In addition to the regulations, NRC has two Regulatory Guides that address operator training. Regulatory Guide 
1.8, "Personnel Selection and Training," endorses ANSI Standard 18.1, "Selection and Training of Nuclear Power Plant 
Personnel." This standard outlines criteria for the selection, training, qualifications and responsibilities of operating 
personnel. The standard was redrafted and circulated for comment by the American Nuclear Society as ANS 3.1 just be- 
fore the accident at TMI. Following the accident, the draft standard was recalled and revised. The newly drafted version 
is to be issued for comment in July 1980. 

Regulatory Guide 1.70, "Standard Format and Content of Safety Analysis Reports for Nuclear Power Plants," 
provides guidance regarding information that is to be submitted to the NRC on training programs for plant staff. The 
plans are reviewed by the Operator Licensing Branch, using the criteria contained in NUREG-75/087, Standard Review 
Plan, Section 13.2, "Training." 


establish two types of licenses: an operator's li- 
cense for personnel who handle the reactor con- 
trols ; and a senior operator's license for those who 
supervise or direct the activities of the control 

As outlined in the American National Stand- 
ards Institute Standard 18.1, an operator must 
have a high school diploma or its equivalent and 
have two vears of experience at a powerplant or 
its equivalent, with a minimum of one year at a 
nuclear powerplant. A senior reactor operator 
must have a high school diploma or its equivalent 
and four years of nowerplant experience in a posi- 
tion of responsibility. A maximum of two years 
of experience can be fulfilled by academic or re- 
lated technical training. 

There are no NRC requirements for psvchologi- 
cal evaluation of license applicants. (339) nor is 
there any investigation to determine the appli- 
cant's employment history or whether he has a 
criminal record. (340) 

The NEC's role in operator training has been 
quite limited and has principally involved audit- 
ing the training programs. (341) It has set no 
qualifications for the instructors who carry out 
operator training, (342) and has no requirements 
that training include proper response to signifi- 
cant transients that have occurred at nuclear re- 
actors. (343) 


In addition to the initial operator training, the 
NRC requires that a utility conduct annual re- 
qualification programs for its licensed operators. 
Reaualification is actually continued training, in- 
tended to ensure that licensed operators maintain 
their technical skills and are aware of new pro- 
cedures. Biannually the NRC audits the program 
by checking the contents of examinations. (344) 

The NRC's Role 

Paul F. Collins, Chief of the Operator Licens- 
ing Branch of the NRC, described some of the 
shortcomings of the NRC program: 

-In the written requalifvinqr examination, 
only two of the seven or eight parts con- 
tain questions on procedures relating to 
safety and emergency equipment. An op- 
erator could do poorly in these areas and 
still achieve an 80 percent score overall, 
thereby qualifying for license renewal. 

-The NRC does not audit the requalifica- 
tion training program administered by 
vendors and -utilities for operators placed 
in accelerated training after scoring less 
than 70 percent on the written examina- 
tions, if they perform well on the oral ex- 
aminations. (346) 

-Since 1973, the NRC has not required an 
applicant for a new license to start up the 
reactor in the presence of an NRC exam- 
iner. Perhaps once a year. NRC examiners 
observe students perform this task on a sim- 
ulator. However, the NRC does not audit 
the requalification training on simulators. 

-If two units are sufficiently similar, an op- 
erator licensed on one unit may be cross- 
licensed for the other upon completion of a 
"differences" course and an examination ad- 
ministered bv the utility. A utility that 
wants to cross-license its operators is 
entirely responsible for that program. An 
NRC examination is not required, and the 
NRC dops not audit those given by the 
utility. (348) 

-The Operator Licensing Branch does not 
coordinate its work with that of the NRC 
staff who review desijrn aspects of a plant. 
Thus, there is no direct communication 
within the NRC on issues involving "where 
man and machine come together." (349) 

-While the oral examination covers normal 
and emergency operating procedures, the 
NRC does not directly observe operators 
using these procedures. (350) 


Three Mile Island was not the only nuclear fa- 
cility to experience the kind of events that occurred 
in the early stages of the March 28, 1979 accident. 61 
The Special Investigation confirmed that the prob- 
lems experienced at TMI had a parallel elsewhere 
in the industry. Two accidents proved of par- 
ticular interest. 


On June 13. 1975, a minor accident occurred at 
Unit 3 of Duke Power Company's Oconee Nuclear 
Generating Station in Oconee County, South Caro- 
lina. This accident was quite similar to the early 
stages of that at TMI-2. 

81 See "Three Mile Island in Perspective : Other Nuclear Accidents," Appendix A, pp. 219ff. 


The plant, which is equipped with a Babcock & 
Wilcox reactor, was at 15 percent power and in 
the process of shutting down for maintenance 
when a loss of feedwater initiated a reactor trip. 
(351) Pressure in the primary system increased to 
the point where the pressurizer relief valve opened. 
As was to happen at TMI-2. the valve failed to 
close when pressure in the primary system de- 
creased. Further, the valve position indicator light 
in the control room malfunctioned and indicated 
that the valve was closed. (352) 

With pressure down, the HPI system activated. 
Water continued to flow out of the stuck-open 
valve into the reactor coolant drain tank. Eventu- 
ally the tank ruptured, spilling approximately 
1.500 gallons of reactor coolant into the contain- 
ment. (353) 

The operators diagnosed the leak and closed the 
block valve before the water in the primary system 
boiled. The situation never became serious enough 
to damage the nuclear fuel. (354) 

The valve failure was caused primarily by a 
build-up of boron in the valve, a problem that was 
later corrected. Once repaired, the valve was tested 
to ensure that the position indicator functioned 
properly. Duke Power management informed the 
operators, following its analysis of the incident, 
that closing the block valve was the proper action 
in such an occurrence. (355) 

XRC's Region II Office reviewed Duke Powers 
analvsi>. raiswl some additional questions and ulti- 
mately found the analysis to be satisfactory. (356) 
The event was routinely reported in XUREG- 
0020. the XRC"? "Grey Book." However, the XRC 
did not perceive any generic safety significance 
and did not further notify other licensees. (357) 

B&W likewise reviewed the event, since its 
equipment was involved, and determined that the 
problem with the PORV could have generic im- 
plications. As a result, all B&W plant owners were 
advised to inspect the PORV's periodically." 


On September 24, 1977. there was a minor ac- 
cident at the Davis-Besse T*nit 1 plant operated 
by Toledo Edison in Ohio. It was also verv simi- 
lar to the early minutes of the Three Mile Island 

While the plant was at nine percent power, feed- 
water problems caused primary svstem pressure 
to rise to the point at which the pressurizer relief 
valve opened. Again, the valve failed to close, this 
time because of a missing relay in the valve's con- 

trol circuit. It opened and closed nine times within 
40 seconds before sticking open. (359) 

Pressure in the primary system dropped, actu- 
ating the HPI system. Water flowing out through 
the PORV eventually caused the reactor coolant 
drain tatik to rupture, and approximately 11.000 
gallons of water were released into the contain- 
ment. (360) 

Although at first the symptoms were common- 
place water in the pressurizer initially dropped 
as primary system pressure dropped an unusual 
condition soon became apparent. Water in the pres- 
surizer began to rise and reached a maximum level 
as the coolant approached the boiling point. The 
operators responded to the filling pressurizer by 
turning HPI off after about four minutes, (361) 
Thus, water being lost through the undiagnosed 
open relief valve was not being adequately re- 
plenished. Coolant in the primary system began 
to boil. 

The operators noticed a combination of indi- 
cators, particularly high pressure in the contain- 
ment and a ruptured drain tank (362) that ulti- 
mately led them to diagnose the situation. They 
isolated the leak after 21 minutes, before sufficient 
coolant had been lost to threaten the nuclear fuel. 


Toledo Edison. Babcock & Wilcox. who had 
supplied the reactor, and the XRC all analyzed 
the accident. The reviews focused primarily on 
the mechanical problems associated with the 
PORV: less attention was paid to operator ac- 
tions. (364) 

One issue related to operator actions was iden- 
tified as having potential safetv significance 
premature termination of the HPI. The Office of 
Xuclear Reactor Regulation. XRC, suggested to 
the Office of Inspection and Enforcement at head- 
quarters that it should ask that Toledo Edison ad- 
dress the matter of operators turning off HPI in 
its formal report. (365) However, according to 
the XRC. "no significant action resulted from this 
effort." (366) 

The XvRC reported the incident in the Grey 
Book, but did not further notifv the utilities. 
(367) Xor did the inspectors' analyses reveal any 
generic safety concerns. (368) in part because they 
believed the problems were unique to the incident. 

Some months later James Creswell, a Region 
III inspector, did raise several issues. One was 
that the operators might have incorrectly turned 
off HPI. As a result, emergency procedures at 

" It is not known at this time what caused the TMI-2 PORV to stick open, as it cannot l>e removed and inspected 
until the containment can be entered. 


Davis-Besse were modified to caution operators 
against turning off HPI in the event of a leak in 
the pressurizer. (370) This possibility was not rec- 
ognized as a generic safety concern, and the NRC 
failed to take further action or to notify other 
utilities. (371) 

When B&W reviewed the incident, it too con- 
cluded that the circumstances at Davis-Besse had 
been unique to that plant. (372) As a result, other 
utilities owning B&W plants were not informed. 
(373) Although several B&W engineers inde- 
pendently questioned the premature termination 
of HPI, internal discussions regarding a change 
in operator instructions were still ongoing at the 
time of the TMI-2 accident. (374) 


At about the time of the Davis-Besse accident, 
TVA engineer Carlvle Michelson, 63 who was also 
a consultant to the NEC's Advisory Committee on 
Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) , was undertaking an 
analysis of hypothetical small break loss-of-cool- 
ant accidents at B&W plants. His conclusions were 
contained in a draft report dated September 1977 
(375) and in a revision of the report dated Jan- 
uary 1978. (376) In both he described and ex- 
plained how he believed the primary coolant sys- 
tem would behave in the case of very small breaks. 

The Michelson Report did not address actual 
accidents, but rather its conclusions about cer- 
tain hypothetical accidents relate to events at TMI 
in March 1979. 

Of particular relevance to TMI-2 was Michel- 
son's analysis of the behavior of the pressurizer. 
He concluded that : 

A full pressurizer is not considered a re- 
liable indication for prescribing certain 
operator actions such as HPI pump trip. 

He stated that pressurizer level would not nec- 
essarily reflect the water level in the reactor vessel. 
He also noted that the reactor coolant pumps 
should be turned off in such situations. (378) 
Michelson strongly urged that emergency pro- 
cedures and operator training cover proper actions 
in the event of very small break losses of coolant. 


In earlv fall 1977, Michelson gave a handwritten 
dm ft of his renort to Jesse Ebersole. a member of 
ACRS. (380) In or around October 1977. Ebersole 
sent a conv to Sanford Israel, a member of the 
Reactor Svstems Branch within the Division of 
Systems Safety, Nuclear Reactor Regulation, 

NRC. (381) Israel in turn provided a copy to Ger- 
ald Mazetis, also in that branch. (382) They were 
the only people in the Office of Nuclear Reactor 
Regulation who knew of and had copies of Michel- 
soivs draft report, (383) and neither saw anything 
of concern in it. (384) Israel reviewed the report 
from the perspective of the small break issue and 
did not find anything "new or different." (385) He 
knew Ebersole was interested in loss of natural 
circulation and noncondensibles, 64 but he himself 
was not. (386) 

In January 1978, Israel did prepare a note that 
addressed the chief concern raised in Michelspn's 
report that in certain circumstances pressurizer 
level would not be an accurate indication of coolant 
level in the reactor vessel and operators could be 
misled by their instruments to turn off the Emer- 
gency Core Cooling System. (387) Israel could not 
recall whether he wrote this as a result of his re- 
view of the report, his knowledge of the Davis- 
Besse incident, questions posed by Ebersole to the 
Pebble Springs applicant, or some combination of 
these factors. (388) 

Israel's note, dated January 10, 1978. was signed 
by his supervisor, Thomas Novak, and was distrib- 
uted to about 15 people within NRR. Again, there 
is no evidence to show that it produced any tech- 
nical interest, and no generic safety problem for 
operating plants was identified. (389) Although a 
related question based on Israel's note was pre- 
pared in connection with an application for a new 
nuclear plant which had a Westinghouse reactor, 
the NRC never sent it. as plans for the reactor 
were cancelled. (390) 

In January 1978, Michelson provided Ebersole 
with a revised tvped version of his report, but 
Ebersole did not distribute it elsewhere in the NRC 
until after the accident at Three Mile Island. (391 ) 


On April 27. 1978. TVA sent Babcock & Wilcox 
(B&W) a copy of the Michelson report, which it 
referred to as a preliminary draft study, (392) 
along with a letter asking B&W to respond to the 
concerns addressed in the report. 

The B&W reviewer did not see the report as 
raising a substantive safety issue and assigned it 
a low priority. (393) His reply, which TVA re- 
ceived nine months later (it was dated January 
23, 1979) did not satisfv all of Michelson's con- 
cerns. Michelson therefore sent a second letter, 
dated February 8. 1979, renuesting further clarifi- 
cation and additional explanation. 

B&W did not inform its customers of Michel- 
son's concern and had not renlied to his second 
letter as of March 28, 1979. (394) 

M Michelson is now Director of NRC's Office of Analysis and Evaluation of Operating Data. 

"A noncondensible gas. such as hydrogen in the reactor VSSP!. cannot bp converted into a liqu'd nt its existing 
temperature and pressure. If a sufficient quantity becomes lodged in the piping, it will block the flow of coolant. 



Yet another factor contributing to the difficul- 
ties encountered during the March 28, 1979 acci- 
dent was inadequate emergency response plan- 
ning by the utility, the XRC and the State of 
Pennsylvania. Planning by each failed to meet the 
demands of an accident of the duration and se- 
verity of TMI. 


As a prerequisite for a license, the XRC re- 
quires that the licensee prepare an emergency plan 
that describes such things as the licensee's emer- 
gency organization, employees with special quali- 
fications for handling emergencies, means of mon- 
itoring radioactive releases and procedures for 
notification of offsite organizations. (395) The 
plan must contain detailed procedures for imple- 
menting emergency responses. 

The TMI-2 Emergency Plan in effect on March 
28. 1979 (396) classified accidents according to de- 
gree of severity : 

1. Local or personnel emergencies^ which in- 
volve : contamination or exposure of individuals 
to excessive levels of radiation and spills in work- 
ing areas: flooding, fire or other conditions that 
might require first aid or evacuation of buildings 
or a controlled area. 

2. Site emergencies, which are triggered by high 
radiation readings at vent gas monitors, 65 high 
radiation levels at the perimeter of the site, or a 
los? of primary coolant pressure coincident with 
high pressure and/or high sump level in the re- 
actor building. This class required evacuation of 
all affected buildings, monitoring of the perim- 
eter for radiation, and notification of. among 
others, the XRC regional office and the State. 

3. General emergencies, which have the poten- 
tial for serious radiological consequences to the 
health and safety of the public. The plan listed 
several conditions that required declaration of a 
general emergency, all based on radiation levels 
either inside the containment building or in at- 
mospheric or liquid effluents. Again, the licensee 
was to notify the State and the XRC regional of- 
fice as well as other agencies. In addition, it was 
to initiate offsite monitoring 66 and establish an 
Emergencv Control Station as soon as possible. 

The XRC required that the utility meet cer- 
tain obligations related to State emergency re- 
sponse as a condition of issuing a license. Fore- 
most was that the utility provide the State with 
information throughout the accident as it was pro- 

gressing. However, the NRC did not specify what 
information was to be transmitted. (397) 


In 1979, the XRC had a number of plans, pro- 
gram documents, studies and procedures covering 
emergency response. (398) The basic document 
describing the agency's overall goal for emergency 
response was a chapter in the XRC Manual. (399) 
As stated there, the goal was : 

... to assure that proper actions are 
taken to protect health and safety, the en- 
vironment, and property from the conse- 
quences of incidents which occur as a 
result of XRC-licensed activities : to pro- 
vide, as appropriate, for common defense 
and security : and to assure that the public 
is kept informed of actual or potential 
hazards to health and safety arising from 
such incidents. (400) 

To meet this goal, five basic program objectives 
were set forth: 

. . . gathering or providing information, 
evaluating response, coordinating with 
other agencies, assisting where appropri- 
ate, or directing where necessary. (401) 

The chapter outlined a program according to 
which, during a nuclear incident, the agency was 
to set up an incident response organization con- 
sisting of three basic groups: an Incident Re- 
sponse Action Coordination Team (TRACT), an 
Executive Management Team (EMT) and the 
Commissioners. IRACT and the EMT were given 
specific duties. (402) The Commissioners, on the 
other hand, were vaguely charged with respon- 
sibility for providing "general policy which de- 
termines the overall course of action XRC takes 
in response to incidents." (403) Unlike IRACT 
and the EMT. the Commissioners were neither as- 
signed specific duties nor charged with develop- 
ing specific procedures governing their emergency 

Xeither the XRC Manual nor any of the other 
XRC documents relating to the agency's incident 
response program contained any provision spe- 
cifically relating to recommendations on evacua- 
tion or other protective action. They did not set 
forth any role in this respect for the Commission- 
ers or any other entity in the agency's incident re- 
sponse organization, despite the program's stated 

85 These are radiation detectors located In the plant's vent sas stacks. 

K Offsite monitoring refers to the dispatching of survey teams equipped with radiation monitors to determine the 
amount of radiation at various locations outside the plant's boundaries. 


goal of protecting the health and safety of the 
public. (404) 

As noted, the NRC Manual outlined specific 
duties for TRACT and the EMT. It delegated to 
the Director of the Office of Inspection and En- 
forcement (I&E) responsibility for developing 
and maintaining procedures for implementing 
those duties according to the type of incident; 
other NRC offices were to review and approve 
those procedures. (405) The Director of I&E in 
turn assigned that responsibility to the Divisions 
within I&E. 

The NRC Headquarters Incident Response Plan 
contained both the general provisions of the Man- 
ual on implementing IRACT's and EMT's duties, 
as well as the separate implementing procedures 
prepared by the I&E divisions. 67 

The I&E Office also had a Manual. One chapter 
established "policy and procedures," whereas two 
others provided "instructions" concerning the 
agency's incident response program. All the chap- 
ters in the I&E Manual predated the NRC Manual 
by several years ; none had been revised since De- 
cember 11, 1975. (409) As a result, in March 1979 
the I&E and NRC Manuals provided for different 
incident response organizations and responsibili- 
ties. The failure to revise the I&E Manual sug- 
gests that the NRC considered emergency response 
planning a low priority. Further, it contributed to 
lack of coordination among the offices that would 
respond to an emergency. That lack of coordina- 
tion, would become very evident during the March 
28 accident. 

Finally, the regional office had a plan. Although 
it had been updated in February 1979, it did not 
reflect the most current planning by headquarters. 
For example, the plan called for the Regional Of- 
fice to be the lead unit in the NRC's emergency re- 
sponse, but did not define how the Region was to 
interact with headquarters. The NRC Manual, on 
the other hand, called for an integrated, agency- 
wide response. 


According to the NRC Manual, the Headquar- 
ters Incident Response Plan and the I&E Manual, 
(410) one of the first actions to be taken in the 
event of a nuclear accident was to set up an Inci- 
dent Response Center. It was to be comprised of 
two principal units TRACT and the EMT 

which were to be located in adjoining offices in one 
of the buildings at NRC headquarters in Bethesda, 
Maryland. Personnel from I&E and other offices 
at headquarters would be called on as support 
staff and would work out of the Incident Response 
Center. There was some contradiction within the 
various documents over the composition of the sup- 
port staff, as described later. 

The Center was to be the heart of the NRC's re- 
sponse to a nuclear accident. IRACT was to re- 
ceive and evaluate incoming information, identify 
real or potential problems and develop alterna- 
tive solutions. (411) Once TRACT had received 
and evaluated the information, it was to pass it 
on to the EMT. TRACT was to filter and process 
the incoming information for transmission to the 
EMT according to guidelines spelled out in the 
NRC Headquarters Incident Response Plan. 

Although the plan assigned IRACT respon- 
sibility for providing the EMT with "adequate" 
information for EMT's decisionmaking and other 
functions, it did not define "adequate" precisely. 
It said only that "EMT should be provided with 
evaluation of information acquired, not with de- 
tails external to the evaluation, e.g., unevaluated 
raw data." (413) 

Both the NRC Headquarters Incident Response 
Plan and IRACT implementing procedures were 
specific as to how information was to flow between 
TRACT and the EMT. As spelled out in the Plan, 
all information was to pass through an TRACT/ 
EMT Liaison Officer : (414) 

1. The Liaison Officer person allv comes 
from the Operations Room (IRACT) to the, 
Executive room (EMT) for each briefing. 

2. The initial portion of each briefing con- 
sists of a brief, concise statement of the situa- 
tion or update of the situation. 

3. After the update of the situation, the 
Liaison Officer states : 

The principal questions now being pur- 
sued bv IRACT are ... (a concise list- 
ing of those questions being pursued by 
:IACT including previously submitted 
EMT questions, if any.) 

IRACT was to support the decisionmaking and 
policy-setting functions of the EMT and the Com- 
missioners. (415) This structure was established 

_ developed and approved by three of the four I&E divisions whose division 
(406) Depending on the type of incident, one of the directors would become the IRACT 

Trh e '^P 1 ^^^ Procedures for that division would pertain. The procedures for incidents at operating 
November 29, 197? (407) devel P d b * I&B 8 Division of Reactor Operations Inspection (ROI) ; they were dated 

' ROI TOrOf'OfJ 111*0*3 Pflllpfl ff\T TT? A f""P nn/1 fe a 4-4- tV 4. v. i 

i nl^ mm !^ niC f t0r A (5) ^ lant Systems Effects group, (6) Radiological and Environmental Effects group, 
Response Center Operations Staff. (408) 


in 1978. 68 The specific actions to be undertaken by 
TRACT and its support staff were spelled out in 
the TRACT implementing procedures, (419) 
within the framework of the general guidelines 
contained in the XRC Manual. The Manual stated 
that the procedures were to be "designed to imple- 
ment the Incident Response Program . . . with a 
minimum of confusion." (420) It called, among 
other things, for procedures for "identifying and 
assembling IRACT support staff" and for "issuing 
oral or written directives to licensees." and, in gen- 
eral, for whatever "other procedures [were] 
deemed necessary to meet incident response ob- 
jectives/' (421) 

The Manual also specified that IRACT was to 
be composed of four I&E Division Directors, two 
Division Directors from the Office of Xuclear 
Material Safety and Safeguards (XMSS) 69 and 
one Division Director from the Office of Xuclear 
Reactor Regulation (XRR). (423) The IRACT 
Director was to be selected from among the four 
I&E Division Directors, and the Director of I&E 
was to be a member of the EMT. (424) The team 
was to be assisted by a support staff drawn from 
appropriate XRC offices, to be determined on the 
basis of the type of accident. 

The XRC Manual stated that XRR was to pro- 
vide IRACT a team member and support staff and 
that these people were to have important roles. 70 
Xeither the XRC Headquarters Incident Re- 
sponse Plan nor the ROI implementing proce- 
dures, however, specified any procedures by which 
the XRR representatives were to carry out their 
functions, although the Manual directed that those 
documents contain that information. This was an- 
other example of the incompleteness and lack of 
coordination in the XRC's emergency planning. 

The Executive Management Team 

The XRC Manual provided for an Executive 
Management Team (EMT), to be composed of the 

XRC's Executive Director for Operations and the 
Directors of I&E, XRR and XMSS or their desig- 
nated alternates. (426) The EMT's role was to 
"transform Commission policy into specific guid- 
ance for the response organization and make major 
decisions affecting XRC's response actions." (427) 

EMT's responsibilities and duties were fur- 
ther delineated by the Headquarters Incident Re- 
sponse Plan. It stated that the EMT would have 
to decide such issues as "should XRC provide as- 
sistance or on-site direction?" (428) The EMT 
was expected to approve "specific NRC direc- 
tives to the licensee during incident response." 
(429) In addition, the EMT was charged with 
notifying "senior governmental officials," includ- 
ing the White House and the Chairman of the 
XRC, of the incident. Another EMT duty was to 
coordinate "XRC offices' joint activities related to 
the incident" and "policy with other agencies." 
The Commissioners 

The XRC Manual defined the Commissioners' 
responsibility as one of providing general policy 
on the XRC's overall emergency response. (431) 
That policy would provide the EMT with the 
framework for managing the incident response 
organization. The EMT would transform that pol- 
icy into "specific guidance" to IRACT and the rest 
of the XRC's response organization. 

According to the Headquarters Incident Re- 
sponse Plan, the IRACT Communications Officer 
was to notify the Commissioners, except for the 
Chairman, of an emergency. EMT was to notify 
the Chairman. (432) The Communications Officer 
also was to update any Commissioners outside the 
response center on an accident's evolution. (433) 
The plan did not require that the Commissioners 
be stationed in any specific location or even that 
they deliberate as a body. 

88 Prior to the formulation and approval of XRC Manual Chapter 0502 in February 1978, neither the Commissioners 
nor the senior technical staff outside I&E had a defined management role within the agency's incident response program. 
Commission policy, as reflected in I&E's Manual Chapter 1300, was simply that the "actions taken in response to incidents 
will be planned and coordinated" by IRACT. No mention was made of an EMT. and executive-level oflScials and the 
Commissioners were referred to only in the context of being kept informed of actions that IRACT might undertake. (416) 
IRACT ha:! consisted solely of high-level I&E officials, with the Director of I&E designated as the Director of IRACT. 
(417) Officials from other XRC offices were responsible only for contributing to the IRACT support staff "when 
necessary." (418) 

Adoption of XRC Manual Chapter 0502 and continuing revision of the XRC Headquarters Incident Response Plan 
led to significant changes in the structure of the agency's response program. The composition and scope of IRACT's 
responsibilities and authority were changed. More detailed guidance was given on how IRACT was to implement its part 
of the agency's response and on the relationship of IRACT with the Commissioners and the newly established Executive 
Management Team. 

* The XRC Manual and Headquarters Incident Response Plan conflicted over XMSS participation in the incident 
response program. The Manual called for XMSS participation on both IRACT and the EMT, while the Plan made XMSS 
participation on IRACT dependent on the type of accident, calling for the "appropriate XRR or XMSS Division Director" 
to become the fifth IRACT member. Under the provisions of both the plan and the Manual, XMSS was to participate on 
the EMT. (422) 

T The XRR participant on the IRACT support staff "evaluates information with respect to the likely future course of 
the incident"; "evaluates corrective action taken and proposed by reactor licensees in response to [the] incident": 
"determines alternate courses of future action available" : "evaluates the feasibility of assistance to the licensee or 
others, recommends to the IRACT the initiation of such assistance, and participates in the provisions of assistance as 
appropriate" ; and "evaluates the need for formal intervention by XRC and recommends the initiation of such intervention 
to the IRACT." (425) 


The various plans did not call for the Commis- 
sioners to take an active role in the NRC's emer- 
gency response. Commissioner Ahearne described 
the Commissioners' view of their role : 

As far as the issue of what is the role of 
a Commissioner . . . during emergency 
response, mv understanding of it prior to 
and certainly during [the accident] was 
that the way the NEC system was de- 
signed was for the senior technical peo- 
ple in the agency to be responsible for 
monitoring and taking whatever action 
might be necessary as far as the technical 
issues. (434) 

Commissioner Gilinsky noted : 

. . . generally speaking, the technical, 
minute-by-minute decisions and recom- 
mendations have to be handled by our 
staff. And the Commissioners have got to 
deal with things that are more general 
in nature . . . but the technical questions 
have got to be examined bv the staff, and 
it is they who have to be in direct touch 
with the licensee as well as counterparts 
in the State. (435) 

Chairman Hendrie and Commissioner Ahearne 
explained that the NRC Manual assigned the 
Commissioners only a policy-making role based 
on the premise that accidents would be over very 
quickly. For this reason, "the Commissioners 
themselves were not assumed to have a role in par- 
ticipating" in the agencv's response, and the re- 
sponse organization would make "whatever deci- 
sions had to be made." (436) The Commissioners 
were envisioned "as sort of an ultimate policy deci- 
sionmaking -body for the agency for those things 
that might follow in the aftermath" of an accident. 

Commissioner Gilinsky pointed out. however, 
that the Commissioners should be prepared to be 
flexible : 

It is hard to put down in a manual a 
set of rules that will cover every possi- 
bility. It is the nature of accidents that 
unusual things turn up and often re- 
quire unusual solutions. The Commission- 
ers are in charge of this agency, and ulti- 
mately have to be responsible for what it 
does. And it may be that decisions will be 
required of them that thev didn't expect 
to have to make . . . and they have to be 
ready to do that (438) 

Commissioner Gilinsky's observations reflect les- 
sons learned from the Commissioner's response on 
March 28. On that day there were several points at 

which a well-informed, actively involved Commis- 
sion might have made important contributions. 
The foremost example involved the need for pro- 
tective action. During the Subcommittee's hear- 
ings following the accident, three Commission- 
ers indicated that they would have considered pro- 
tective action on March 28 had they had the 
information available to the utility. 71 


The various plans also called for the activation 
of a Regional Incident Response Center. The Re- 
gion I Incident Response Plan designated the rear 
half of the main conference room at the Region I 
offices in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, as the 
location for the center. (439) Two teams were to be 
set up: (1) a Regional Incident Response Action 
Coordination Team and (2) an Onsite Inspection 
Team. (440) 

When notified of an incident at a nuclear facility 
under its jurisdiction, the Region was to classify 
it according to severity and decide whether to ac- 
tivate the response center and dispatch an inspec- 
tion team to the facility. It also was to notify NRC 
Headquarters and other incident response support 
organizations. (441) 

Further defining Region I's response were the 
implementing procedures in the Region I Incident 
Response Plan. 72 

While a Regional Office might have the lead re- 
sponsibility in the early stages of an accident, as 
an arm of I&E it was ultimately subordinate to 
IRACT at headquarters. (443) 


On March 22. 1975, a major fire broke out at the 
Browns Ferry nuclear powerplant in Decatur, 
Alabama. It took hours to bring the reactor under 
control. The NRC had substantial difficulty in re- 
sponding effectively, particularly becaiise of weak- 
nesses in its communications system. 

After the accident, the NRC appointed a Special 
Review Group to "distill from the available infor- 
mation those lessons that should be learned for the 
future." (444) 

By February 1976, the NRC's Special Review 
Group had analyzed the agencv's response. In its 
report, it described the flow of information during' 
the accident from plant operators to onsite NRC 
inspectors to the regional office to NRC headquar- 
ters and on to other government officials. (445) 
The Group commented : "The well-known game of 
'password' shows how poorly information is trans- 
mitted through such chains." (446) 

See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 150-151. 
"This document was revised in February 1979. (442) 


The Group recommended that communications 
facilities (which is left unspecified) be provided 
and that "the problem deserves a deeper study and 
more expertise than [we] are able to bring to bear 
on it. and that a systems study (who should com- 
municate with whom, when and how?)" be com- 
missioned. (447). 

In June 1976. the NRC hired the MITRE Cor- 
poration, a consulting firm, to conduct a study on 
"Communications and Control to Support Incident 
Management." MITRE was "to define new com- 
munication concepts, requirements and procedures 
which will allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commis- 
sion to respond more effectively to nuclear inci- 
dents involving its licensees." (448) The original 
contract was for $94.000. 

MITRE issued a two-volume report in Novem- 
ber 1977. (449) It outlined three possible communi- 
cations system?, based on different roles the NRC 
might assume in responding to accidents. For each 
alternative, the study provided startup procedures. 
requirements for making the system operational on 
an interim basis, and the actions necessary to reach 
full operational capability. (450) 

The concept behind the first system was that the 
NRC would simply monitor the course of a nuclear 
incident : 

In this concept the NRC's involvement 
would be limited to monitoring the activi- 
ties of the various response units and co- 
ordinating Federal information exchange. 

In this case, the NRC would depend on other 
organizations for information. 

The second alternative conceptualized the NRC 
as an advisor to the licensee, but dependent on it 
for information : 

This concept would allow the [Incident 
Response Center] to provide detailed ad- 
vice, if needed, based on information sup- 
plied by the calling party or on file in the 
[Center]. (452) 

The third option was particularly noteworthy 
in that, in many respects, it foreshadowed how the 
NRC would come to see itself and how it would 
restructure its incident response program follow- 
ing the TMI accident. (453) 

The third system envisioned an NRC that would 
serve as an advisor to its licensees on the basis of 
data on the status of the reactor that the NRC 
would collect independently : 

In this concept, the [Incident Response 
Center] would receive sensor information 
transmitted directlv from reactor instru- 

mentation. Transmission would probably 
be triggered by [automatic] alarm. Dur- 
ing normal operations the [IRC] could 
dial up any reactor on a standard tele- 
phone line to scan the reactor instrumen- 
tation data. In an incident, the alarm 
would trigger automatic dial-up from the 
reactor site to the [IRC] where data 
would be recorded. The [IRC] would also 
be able to select any number of the sensor 
inputs for concentrated attention. 

By adding a source of reactor perform- 
ance data independent of licensee person- 
nel, the [IRC] may be able to help an- 
ticipate new complications in an inci- 
dent and to offer the [offsite response cen- 
ter] alternative remedies. The licensee 
would still decide, ultimately, what in- 
structions to pass on to his site personnel. 
The capability to assess the situation in- 
dependently, however, provides the 
[IRC] the information base required to 
intervene in the licensee response if it 
should ever be necessary. (454) 

At the time of the accident, the NRC had ex- 
pressed its intention to implement the third alter- 
native but had not yet established the necessary 
communications system. In the interim, it adopted 
the second alternative advisor, dependent upon 
the licensee for data. 73 (455) It did so despite a 
prophetic warning from the consultant: 

The dependence on information fur- 
nished by the calling party [licensee] or 
on file in the [Incident Response Center] 
is the most obvious limitation [of this 
option], since the [Center] is unlikely to 
have enough information to anticipate a 
problem not already noted bv the caller. 

Lee Gossick, a member of the EMT. explained 
to the Special Investigation staff the assumption 
underlying incident response at. the time. It pro- 
vided a possible rationale for selection of the sec- 
ond option. The assumption was that an event 
would last onlv a short time. The emergency re- 
sponse drills of the Incident Response Center prior 
to the accident were based on that assumption and 
did not, provide experience with accidents of long 
duration. (457) "The Three Mile Island thing was 
an event unlike that which any of us ... antici- 
pated," Gossick told the Special Investigation 
staff. (458). 

Edson Case, like Gossick a member of the EMT 
on March 28. confirmed that the drills were based 

"On March 28 the XRC was dependent on the utility for data on key plant conditions, such as hotlee temperatures, 
incore thermocouple readings, and the status of natural circulation. For most of the first day. it received incomplete or 
erronpous information or was unable to Ret answers to requests. See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," 
pp. 110-111, 119-121, 126-128, 131-132, 137-138. 143-145. 


on events of short duration. (459) He said that 
planning for accident scenarios was based on a 
range of accidents, including some that would in- 
volve large releases of radiation, but that generally 
the accident would be over before the NRC could 
play an active role. (460) According to Case, the 
NRC conceived its role to be one of directing off site 
actions to minimize public exposure to radiation, 
rather than giving advice or direction to the li- 
censee on how to operate his plant. (461) 

It should be noted that Case's perception of the 
NRC's role conflicts with that spelled out in both 
the NRC Manual and the alternative the NRC 
chose from among the three provided by the 

The week of March 28 at Three Mile Island 
underscored dramatically the inaccuracy of the 
presumption that accidents would be of short 
duration. 7 * 


The NRC had, and has, no regulatory authority 
over a State's emergency response or plans. (462) 
Therefore, there was no requirement that the 
State in which a nuclear plant was located have an 
adequate emergency response plan. (463) Nor was 
there any requirement that an adequate State plan 
be in existence before a nuclear power plant lo- 
cated in that State would be licensed. 

The Commission had general authority to im- 
pose such a requirement, if it determined that such 
a requirement was necessary to protect the public 
health and safety. The Commission never made 
such a determination. 

The States could, however, voluntarily submit 
their emergency plans to the NRC for "concur- 
rence." As of March 28, 1979, eleven States had 
secured NRC concurrence; Pennsylvania was not 
among them. 

The NRC's regulations recognized certain State 
responsibilities, the most important of which is to 
decide on protective action such as evacuation. In 
turn, local governments, with State support, would 
implement that decision. (464) 


In Pennsylvania, the designated lead agency 
for the State's response in the event of an emer- 
gency at a nuclear plant was the Pennsylvania 
Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). Its 
role was to assure prompt, proper and effective 
discharge of basic Commonwealth responsibilities 
related to civil defense and disaster preparedness, 
operations, and recovery." (465) A Council headed 

by a Chairman was to set the Agency's overall 
policy. A State director hired by the Council su- 
pervised PEMA's activities. (466) 

PEMA headquarters were to be located in the 
basement of the Transportation and Safety Build- 
ing. During an accident, the Emergency Opera- 
tions Center (EOC) was to be located there. 
PEMA was to enlist and coordinate the assistance 
of other State and Federal agencies as the situa- 
tion required. Upon activation of the EOC, af- 
fected State agencies were to dispatch representa- 
tives to cubicles within the Center. In the event 
that protective action became necessary, PEMA 
was to be responsible for its implementation. 

The Bureau of Radiation Protection (BRP), a 
division of the Pennsylvania Department of En- 
vironmental Resources (DER), is an important 
component of Pennsylvania's emergency response 
organization. Its Division of Environmental 
Radiation is routinely involved with environ- 
mental surveillance, laboratory activities and 
emergency planning. (467) During an accident 
involving releases of radiation to the environment 
that could require protective action, BRP was to 
serve as PEMA's technical advisor. In fact, once 
PEMA had been notified of an emergency at a 
fixed nuclear site, it would no longer talk directly 
to the site, but would rely on BRP personnel. BRP 
would receive information from the site, coordinate 
radiation monitoring and advise the Common- 
wealth on protective action such as evacuation. 

Although PEMA had divided the Common- 
wealth into several areas, each with its own small 
office, the political subdivisions were to carry out 
protective action and other tasks as required. (468) 
During an emergency, county and local emergency 
preparedness directors were to marshal personnel 
and equipment from county and municipal agen- 
cies. They were to receive information from and 
be coordinated by PEMA operations personnel. 


The State had three emergency plans that out- 
lined its response ; these plans were distinct from 
the Met Ed plan, described above. PEMA had a 
Departmental Operations Plan that served as the 
general emergency guide for the Commonwealth 
of Pennsylvania. The August 1978 edition of An- 
nex E of the PEMA plan dealt with radiological 
incidents at fixed nuclear sites in Pennsylvania. 
BRP had two response plans which applied to 
TMI. The first was a general plan which applied 
to all nuclear plants in the Commonwealth. (469) 
The second was limited to TMI. (470) While noti- 
fication channels were similar to those in Met Ed's 

74 There is evidence that this presumption contributed to the communications difficulties the NRC had on the first day. 
See, in particular, "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 120-121. 


site emergency plan, the classifications of nuclear 
incidents were different. 75 

As discussed above, none of the plans had been 
submitted to the XRC for voluntary review and 
concurrence. (477 j 

In addition to these plans, county directors were 
to have written umbrella plans, along with annexes 
that they were to submit to PEMA for approval. 
< 47-> ) However, local Civil Defense personnel were 
usually volunteers, and many had no written 
emergency plans at the time of the accident. 


A crucial question that utilities, the XRC and the 
States have to address in the event of a nuclear 
accident is whether to take protective action, and 
most particularly, whether evacuation is necessary. 

Since January 1973. the Environmenal Protec- 
tion Agency (EPA) has had responsibility for 
ng Federal and State guidelines governing 
protective action in relation to actual or projected 
releases of radioactivity beyond the boundaries of 
XRC-regulated facilit'ies. "(479) The guidelines 
cover levels of radiation at which protective 
action is mandatory, and methods for projecting 
dose rates so that a determination of the need for 
protective action can be made in advance of actual 

As described below, the version of the EPA 
guidelines in effect in March 1979 was incomplete 
with respect to projecting dose rates: it did not 
spell out clearly the criteria to \te used in making 
the appropriate calculations. Most important was 
the failure to define "plant conditions*' and how 
they were to be used, particularly in terms of wor- 
sening conditions, to project releases and dose 


In September 1975. the EPA established cri- 
teria for determining the need for protective 

action, such as evacuation, in response to nuclear 
accidents that could expose the public to radia- 
tion. These criteria were set forth in the EPA's 
"Manual of Protective Action Guides and Protec- 
tive Actions for Xuclear Incidents."' 76 (481) 

A key chapter of the EPA Manual Chapter 5. 
"Application of Protective Action Guides for Ex- 
posure to Airborne Radioactive Materials from an 
Accident at a Xuclear Power Facility" was being 
revised at the time of the accident. A draft of this 
chapter was ready, in January 1979. but it was not 
issued until June 1979, (482) several months after 
the accident. 

Other chapters in the 1975 Manual detailed a 
number of steps in protective action decision- 
making. Beyond pre-accident planning, they 
were: (1) evaluation by the facility operator of 
the projected effect of a nuclear accident on. pub- 
lic health and safety, (2) notification by the utility 
of State and local officials that an accident had 
occurred, and (.3) collection of additional informa- 
tion and/or warnings to the public. (483) Even if 
an initial determination was made that protective 
action was not warranted, the State still would 
need to collect and evaluate information hi order 
to assess whether that determination should be 
modified. (484) 

The facility operator was to provide "detailed 
information.'' such as projected doses, to the public 
and to the State. These doses were to be estimated 
from data obtained at the point of release or from 
"releases anticipated for particular types of nu- 
clear incidents." (485) If the operator did not 
provide that information, 

... the emergency plans of the State 
should provide for action in the immedi- 
ate downwind area of the facility based 
on notification that a substantial release 
has occurred or that plant conditions are 
such that a substantial release potential 
exists. (486) 

As was evident on March 28. neither the util- 
ity, the XRC nor the State were clear what data 

"The General Procedures and Guidelines Manual of the Bureau of Radiation Protection (471) has a classification 
:n for accidents based on XRC regulations. These class?s can be briefly described as : 
Class I Incidents with no radiological consequences, but of potential public interest. 
Class II Abnormal occurrence, i.e.. major reduction in protection for health and safety. 
Class HI Threat of radioactivity offsite. e.g.. LOCA. (472 i 
These classes are the same as those in PEMA's Annex E. (473) 

However, the BRP site specific plan for TMI (474) has four types of accidents : 
Type 1 Unplanned release to Susqnehanna River. 
Type 2 Potential release to the atmosphere. 
Type 3 Release to the atmosphere as a result of system failure. 
Type 4 Maior failure with failed safeguards. (47." i 

The Three Mile Island nuclear station site emergency plan has yet another system of classification, each with its own 
descriptions and notification procedures. These classes are : 
< 1 1 local emergencies, 
i 2 i site emergencies, and 
181 general emergencies. (476) 

The inconsistent and overlapping classifications of nuclear accidents contained in the various plans reveal little 
attempt at uniformity. 

'' Protective Action Guides (PAGs) describe "projected radiological doses ... to individuals in the general 
population that warranted protective action following a release of radioactive material." (480) 

the utility was to transmit, and the utility did not 
provide the State with information on plant con- 
ditions. 77 In effect neither the utility nor the NRC 
considered uncertainty as to uncovering of the 
core a condition that warranted serious consider- 
ation of evacuation. 78 


The revisions of Chapter 5 referred to above 
elaborate to a limited extent on the "detailed in- 
formation" needed by the State. The State is to 
have (1) Protective Action Guides (PAGs) ad- 
justed for local conditions and (2) projected doses 
for comparison with the adjusted PAGs. (487) 
The projected doses were to be derived from one or 
more of three sources : 

(1) plant conditions. 

(2) release rates and meteorological condi- 
tions, or 

(3) offsite radiological measurements, or 
combinations thereof . (488) 

An appendix to the Manual, dated January 
1979, defines the first of these three data bases as 
"reactor system status." However, it provides no 
further guidance as to how this information is to 
be used in connection with protective action. 
Rather, it notes : "Dose projection based on reac- 
tor system status will be primarily the responsi- 
bility of nuclear facility officials and will not be 
discussed here." (489) 

The updated version also assumed that the fa- 
cility operator is the most likely to have accurate 
information on plant conditions. As Floyd Galpin, 
EPA's Director of the Division of Environmental 
Analysis, wrote the NRC following the accident : 

. . . [A] 11 of our guidance to States have 
implied a first order dependence on the 
facility operator for information on the 
releases. . . . (490) 


Of the three sources of data, field measurements 
were considered the most accurate for making pro- 
jections, as they reflected dose rates at the time of 
measurement. Continuous monitoring would pro- 
vide data that the State could use to evaluate initial 
and subsequent protective action decisions. (491) 

This source, however, has one major weakness. 
It assumes there will be no change at the site that 
could abruptly alter the release rate. This assump- 
tion might not bo correct in the case of an ongoing 
incident. For that, the first source of data specified 
in the January 1979 Appendix accurate and up- 
to-date information on plant conditions (reactor 
system status) would be needed. That would in- 
clude actual or anticipated changes in the condi- 
tion of key components or systems. Only with this 
information can future releases be projected effec- 
tively. (492) 

Thus "plant conditions" or "reactor system 
status" are key elements in projecting dose rates, 
on the basis of which the need for protective action 
can be determined. The revised version of the 
Guidelines, which neither the State nor the utility 
had seen in 1979, does not go far beyond the older 
version of the EPA Manual, which provided in- 
sufficient guidance. It states only that plant condi- 
tions are defined as "reactor system status" and 
should be used in determining projected doses in 
consideration of protective action. 

The EPA, in response to a request by the Sub- 
committee, stated that by "plant conditions" it 
means "observable parameters onsite that could bo, 
used to predict, the course of the accident, includ- 
ing its seriousness with regard to releases." (493) 
The EPA also told Special Investigation staff that 
the operator is (and was) to report to the State 
whether specific safeguards might fail and what 
the consequences would be, what offsite releases 
in what ranges would follow, what checks were in 
place and the time before an event might take 
place. Public health officials could then take ad- 
vantage of maximum lead times. (494) The State, 
of course, must have people who can understand 
the dose projections. 

This definition of plant conditions as plant pa- 
rameters was not specified in the Manual, nor does 
the Manual define which of the hundreds of pa- 
rameters should be considered. Further, it does not 
provide guidance as to what should be done if the 
reliability of a key indicator is in doubt, for ex- 
ample, water level in the core. 

Beyond this, neither the revised nor the old 
Manual spells out adequately who is responsible 
for protective action, and neither version specifies 
any role for the NRC, despite the NRC's mandate 
to protect the health and safety of the public. 

" See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 135-136. 
" See "The Accident at Three Mile Island : The First Day," pp. 134-135. 


Chapter 7 

Accident At Three Mile Island: 

The First Day 


Control room personnel discussing plant conditions and strategy during the accident 



AHEARNE, John F. NRC Commissioner. One of three who spent part of first day of accident at 
the Incident Response Center in Bethesda. Named Acting Chairman of the NRC in November 1979. 
Told by Edson Case at 9 a.m. core probably had been uncovered. 

ARNOLD, Robert. Vice President for Generation of the GPU Service Corporation. Said he 
questioned control room personnel on core uncovering. Contributed to the strategy that finally 
succeeded in returning the plant to stable conditions in late afternoon. 

BENNETT, Skip. Instrumentation Foreman at TMI. Deduced, based on incore thermocouple 
readings, that core had been uncovered. 

BENSON, Michael L. Lead Nuclear Engineer at TMI-2. Arrived at the Unit 2 control room 
about 7 a.m. Deduced that neutron detectors showed excess neutron leakage from core. 

BRADFORD, Peter. NRC Commissioner. One of three who spent part of first day at the 
Incident Response Center. 

BRUNNER, Eldon. NRC Branch Chief at Region I. First official at Region I to receive word 
of the incident. Activated Regional Incident Response Center. 

BRYAN, Ken. Shift Supervisor at TMI-1. Arrived in Unit 2 control room eight minutes into 

the accident. 

CASE, Edson. Deputy Director of NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. Was member 
of the NRC Executive Management Team. Advised Commissioner Ahearne at 9 a.m. that core might 
be uncovered. 

CHWASTYK, Joseph. Shift Supervisor at TMI. Only person whose statements indicate he 
correctly attributed pressure spike in the reactor building to a hydrogen burn. 

CRAWFORD, Howard C. Nuclear Engineer at TMI. Performed initial projected dose-rate cal- 
culations about 7 :15 a.m. based on containment dome-monitor readings. 

CRITCHLOW, PauL Governor Thornburgh's Press Secretary and Director of Communications. 
Was involved with press statements, news conferences and briefings conducted by Pennslyvania 
State officials. 

DAVIS, John. Acting Director of NRC's Office of Inspection and Enforcement. Member of NRC 
Executive Management Team. Activated the Incident Response Center in Bethesda on March 28. 

DENTON, Harold R. NRC's Director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. Became member of the 

Executive Management Team in the afternoon. 

DORNSIFE, William P. Nuclear Engineer with the Pennsylvania Department of Environ- 
mental Resources, Bureau of Radiation Protection. Only nuclear engineer with the State emergency 
response organization. Was on-call duty officer on March 28. 

DUBIEL, Richard W. TMI-2 Supervisor of Radiation Protection and Chemistry at TMI-2. 
In charge of radiation-protection activities, including assessment of onsite and offsite monitoring 
during accident. 

EISENHUT, Darrell. Deputy Director of NRC's Division of Operating Reactors. Assembled 
reactor-systems and radiological-assessment teams for NRR. Periodically briefed Harold Denton and 
relayed information between Babcock & Wilcox and Victor Stello. 

FAUST, Craig. Control Room Operator at TMI-2. Present in control room when accident be- 
gan. One of four responsible for initial response to accident. 

1 Unless otherwise indicated, descriptions refer to positions held or roles played on Wednesday, March 28, 1979. 


51-058 0-80-7 


FLINT, John. Babcock & Wilcox, Engineer and Start-up Representative at TMI-2. Arrived 
Unit 2 control room about 9 a.m. Was among first to recognize core had been uncovered and super- 
heated conditions in the reactor vessel. 

FOUCHARD, Joseph. Director, NEC's Office of Public Affairs. Responsible for generating 
press releases issued by NRC from the EMT office during the accident. 

FREDERICK, Edward. TMI-2 Control Room Operator. Present in the control room when 
accident began. One of four responsible for initial response to accident. 

GILBERT, Bob. Instrumentation Technician at TMI-2. Arrived in cable room while incore 
thermocouple readings being taken. Did not interpret readings to indicate core had been uncovered. 

GILINSKY, Victor. NRC Commissioner. Acting Chairman of NRC first day while Chairman 
Hendrie away. At NRC headquarters in Washington, D.C., most of day. Told by Stello at 4 :30 p.m. 
that core was uncovered. 

GOSSICK, Lee V. Executive Director for Operations at NRC. Director of NRC Executive 
Management Team. Participated in conference call at 4 :30 p.m. to Commissioner Gilinsky concern- 
ing uncovering of the core. 

GRIER, Boyce. Director of NRC's Region I. Notified John Davis at NRC headquarters of 
accident. Coordinated early Region I response with Smith and Brunner. 

GRIMES, Brian. Assistant Director of Engineering and Projects in NRC's Office of Nuclear 
Reactor Regulation. Office representative on support staff of Incident Response Center in Bethesda. 

HAVERKAMP, Donald R. Project Inspector in NRC's Region I. Served as liaison on the first 
day of the accident between Region I and the site. 

HENDRIE, Joseph. Chairman of the NRC. Was absent first day of the accident. 

HERBEIN, John G. Met Ed's Vice President for Nuclear Generation. Became utility spokes- 
man to the press, the Lt. Governor, and the NRC. Contributed to strategy that finally brought plant 
to stable conditions in late afternoon. 

HIGGINS, James C. Inspector at NRC's Region I. Member NRC onsite inspection team. One 
of the two NRC inspectors in Unit 2 control room. Said he was unaware of pressure spike in the 
reactor building and did not report it to NRC. 

HITZ, Gregory. Shift Supervisor at TMI. Served as intermediary between Victor Stello and 
the TMI-2 operators. First at site to learn of Stello's concerns regarding superheated steam and 
uncovering of the core. 

KENNEDY, Richard T. NRC Commissioner. Notified of accident by John Davis at 8 :52 a.m. 
Spent day at NRC headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

KISTER, Harold. Inspector at NRC's Region I. Manned the phones to TMI and to IRACT. 
Received Victor Stello's request around noon for incore thermocouple readings. 

KUNDER, George. Superintendent of Technical Support and the on-call Duty Officer at 
TMI-2 during morning of first day. Placed in charge of technical support and communications. 

LOGAN, Joseph B. Superintendent at TMI-2. Charged with ensuring that all required proce- 
dures and plans were reviewed and followed. 

MEHLER, Brain. Shift Supervisor at TMI. Arrived in TMI-2 control room about 6 a.m. 
Recognized PORV was stuck open and ordered block valve closed at 6 :22 a.m. Deduced steam in the 
hotlegs around same time. 

MILLER, Gary. Station Superintendent at TMI. Arrived TMI-2 control room shortly after 
7 a.m. Became Director of Met Ed's Emergency Command Team. Said he was unaware core had 
been uncovered and said he did not know about the pressure spike in reactor building. 



MOSELEY, Norman. Director of NRC's Division of Reactor Operations Inspection. Was 
Director of the Incident Response Action Coordination Team. At Victor Stello's direction, raised 
issue of superheated steam with James Higgins in Unit 2 control room at 4 :30 p.m. 

PORTER, Ivan. Met Ed's Lead Instrumentation Engineer. Collected incore thermocouple 
readings around 8 a.m. and told Gary Miller they were unreliable. Oversaw installation of resistance 
bridge for reading hotleg temperatures. 

ROGERS, Leland. Babcock & Wilcox's Site Operations Manager at TMI. Was in TMI-2 control 
room much of day and served as liaison with B&W's Division of Nuclear Generation in Lynchburg, 

ROSS, Mike. Supervisor of Operations at TMI-1. Placed in charge of operator activities in 
the Unit 2 control room. 

SCHEIMANN, Fred. Shift Foreman at TMI-2. Present in control room during early stages 
of accident. Was in the auxiliary building when the accident began. One of four responsible for ini- 
tial response to accident. 

SCRANTON, William. Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Chairman of the Pennsylvania Emer- 
gency Management Council, which directs Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Took 
lead in State's emergency response on first day. 

SEELINGER, James. Superintendent at TMI-1. Given responsibility for Met Ed's Emergency 
Control Station in Unit 1 control room. 

SMITH, George. XRC's Chief Health Physicist in Region I. Coordinated Region I response 
with Eldon B runner. 

SNIEZEK, James. Director of NRC's Fuel Facility and Materials Safety Inspection, Office 
of Inspection and Enforcement. Responsible for assembling and assessing radiological information 
received by Incident Response Action Coordination Team on the first day. 

STELLO, Victor, Jr. Director of NRC's Division of Operating Reactors. Member of Incident 
Response Action Coordination Team. First among NRC's top officials to diagnose uncovering of core 
and existence of superheated steam. Now Director of Office of Inspection and Enforcement. 

THORNBURGH, Richard. Governor of Pennsylvania. Responsible for determining whether 
an evacuation was necessary. 

WARREN, Ron. Met Ed Engineer. Notified NRC Region I of accident and manned phone link- 
ing Region I and the site during morning hours. 

WEAVER, Douglas. Instrumentation Foreman at TMI. Involved in taking incore thermo- 
couple readings and installing a device to widen range of hotleg readings during morning. 

WEISS, Bernard. NRC's IRACT Communications Officer. Incorrectly told White House Situ- 
ation Room and Department of Health, Education and Welfare that there was never a problem 
keeping core covered. 

WILBER, Howard "Mike". NRC, Field Communicator at Incident Response Action Coordi- 
nation Team. 

WILKERSON, Scott. Nuclear Engineer at TMI. One of three engineers onsite during first 
three hours of accident. Asked by George Kunder to analyze whether the reactor was going critical 

WRIGHT, Thomas. Instrumentation Technician at TMI-2. One of four technicians who took 
incore thermocouple readings. 

YEAGER, Bill. Instrumentation Technician at TMI-2. One of four technicians who took in- 
core thermocouple readings. Based on readings, concluded core uncovered at time readings taken. 

ZEWE, William. Shift Supervisor in charge of both TMI-1 and TMI-2. On duty when accident 
began. One of four responsible for initial response. 


The NRC Commissioners testify before the Subcommittee on Nuclear Regulation 

Chapter 7 

Accident At Three Mile Island: 

The First Day 


At 36 seconds past 4 KK) a.m.. on March 28. 1979, 
several valves in the secondary system of Unit 2 
at Three Mile Island malfunctioned, causing first 
the turbine and then the reactor to trip. 1 These 
minor problems were compounded by yet another 
valve that malfunctioned, this one in the primary 
coolant loop of the plant. But it. too. was a minor 
event. Safety systems came into play, as pro- 
grammed, to control the situation. 

Despite the correct functioning of the safety 
systems, a variety of other factors complicated 
the situation in such ways that the operators 
were unable to respond effectively, and a serious 
accident resulted. 

It was a week before the plant could be declared 
"stable." That week was characterized by further 
problems, among them offsite releases of radiation, 
a recommendation for protective evacuation, the 
possibility of a hydrogen explosion and tremen- 
dous anxiety among local residents. By the end 
of the week, the Unit 2 facility was known to have 
been severely damaged. How severely damaged 
could not be determined because high levels of 

radioactivity inside the containment precluded 

The events of that week were largely deter- 
mined by the damage done to the reactor in the 
first two or three hours. During that initial period, 
utility personnel had been unable to diagnose what 
was happening and, therefore, took incorrect ac- 
tions. What began as a routine incident very rap- 
idly escalated into a major and serious accident, 
although just how serious was not discovered un- 
til two days later. The inappropriate decisions 
and actions taken in the early hours were com- 
pounded by the failure to diagnose plant condi- 
tions further into the accident and by improper 
actions throughout the day on the part of the 
utility, the NRC and the State. 

Because of the importance of what happened 
during the first day and the need to insure proper 
response during the critical, early hours of an ac- 
cident, the Special Investigation focused on that 
period. This chapter recounts and analyzes the 
events of those hours and the responses of the 
utility, the NRC and the State. 


Four men were on duty in Unit 2 at Three Mile 
Island in the predawn hours of March 28, 1979: 
William Zewe. Station Supervisor: Fred Schei- 
mann. Shift Foreman for TMI-2: and Edward 
Frederick and Craig Faust, control room opera- 
tors. Each was a graduate of the Navy's nuclear 
training program and had had at least five years 
of Navy experience. All four had been through 
Met Ed s training program, which included five 

to nine weeks of practice on the Babcock & Wil- 
cox simulator, and all had been licensed as plant 
operators by the NRC. (1) 

At 4 .-00 a.m.. Frederick and Faust were in the 
control room performing routine duties. Zewe 
was in the shift supervisor's office at the rear of 
the control room. (2) Scheimann was in the tur- 
bine building overseeing maintenance on the 
plant's troublesome condensate polishing system. 

1 For a description of plant equipment and plant systems, see "How the Plant Works," pp. 23-31. 


As had happened in the past, a polisher had be- 
come blocked by resin. Scheimann and his crew 
were trying to break up the blockage with a mix- 
ture of air and water. (3) 

At 4 :00 :36 a.m., a year to the day and the hour 
since TMI-2 had first gone critical, (4) valves 
in the condensate polishing system malfunctioned 
and shut off the flow of water to the feedwater 
pumps. 2 The feedwater pumps, responding to the 
lack of flow, automatically closed down, stopping 
the flow of feedwater to the steam generators. 

The pumps for the emergency feedwater sys- 
tem, a back-up safety system designed for this 
kind of equipment failure, started automatically 
to pump water toward the steam generators. 
However, closed valves in the feedwater lines 
stopped the flow from reaching the steam 


With no water going to the steam generators, 
insufficient steam was produced to run the turbine. 
At two seconds into the accident, 4:00:38, the 
plant's safety system automatically shut down 
(tripped) the turbine in response to the feedwater 
pump trip. 

In the control room, Faust heard the alarms sig- 
nal the shutdown of the main feedwater pumps 
and said to Frederick, "Something's going wrong 
in the plant." (5) Zewe came out of the shift 
supervisor's office and noticed the turbine had 

With no water going into the secondary side of 
the steam generators, not enough heat was being 
removed from the primary system. The tempera- 
ture of the coolant went up, and pressure in the 
primary system began to rise as the rapidly heated 
water expanded. Pressure in the pressurizer rose 
to 2,255 pounds per square inch (psi), 3 100 psi 
more than normal. 

About three seconds after the start of the acci- 
dent at 4:00:39 the pilot-operated relief valve 
(PORV) atop the pressurizer opened auto- 
matically to relieve the mounting pressure. Steam 
shot out the valve and flowed into the reactor 

coolant drain tank in the containment, where it 
condensed into water. 


Pressure inside the reactor vessel continued to 
rise, triggering another automatic safety re- 
sponse: at eight seconds into the accident 
4:00:44 the control rods automatically dropped 
down into the core, and the reactor "scrammed," 
terminating the fission reaction instantaneously. 4 

As a result of the reactor scram, the heat being 
generated by the core decreased sharply.*' This 
decrease in the rate of heating, in combination 
with the continued dissipation of some heat 
through the secondary system, caused temperature 
in the primary system to drop. As it did so, the 
coolant contracted, thereby reducing pressure; it 
would reach 1,100 psi within 20 minutes after the 
accident began and then fluctuate between 1,000 
and 1,100 psi for the next hour or so. (7) 

All this occurred by 4 :00 :49 13 seconds into 
the accident. 

About 16 seconds into the accident, an operator 
in the control room noticed instrumentation in- 
dicating that the emergency feedwater pumps had 
been automatically activated. (8) No one saw the 
two lights indicating that the feedwater valves 
were closed, blocking the flow from the pumps to 
the steam generators. 6 (10) 


By about this time 16 seconds into the acci- 
dent and about 12 seconds after the PORV had 
opened pressure in the pressurizer had de- 
creased to 2,205 psi, the point at which the valve 
was supposed to close. The indicator light in the 
control room went out, a signal that power to 
the valve had gone off. The operators assumed 
the valve had closed. 7 In fact, it had stuck in the 
open position. (11) 


The situation had become a multiple-failure 
accident. 8 More important, the plant was now ex- 

2 It was later determined that water had entered the air lines, a problem similar to that which triggered an incident 
in 1977. See "Prior to the Accident," pp. 64-65, for further details. 

3 References to psi throughout this section are to pounds per square inch gauge. It is equivalent to absolute pressure 
less the atmospheric pressure of 14.7 psi. 

' See "How the Plant Works," p. 30. 

6 When fission stops, the heat produced by the core drops dramatically, initially to about six percent of the heat 
produced when the reactor is operating at full power. (6) The residual heat, known as decay heat, decreases with time. 

"An operator told Special Investigation staff that a maintenance tag obscured one light. (9) There has been no 
explanation for the failure to notice the other. 

7 See "Prior to the Accident," p. 86, for a discussion of the PORV position indicator. 

8 When the condensate polishing system malfunctioned, it started what is called a loss of feedwater transient. This 
was the initiating event. The closed valves in the feedwater line which blocked the flow of emergency feedwater to the 
steam generators was the first failure in the unfolding event. The PORV sticking open was the second failure. The event 
thus bcame a multiple-failure loss of feedwater accident. 


Control room console showing maintenance tags 

periencing a loss-of -cool ant accident, since the 
failed PORV had become an undetected pathway 
for coolant to escape the primary system. 

Normally, equipment in the plant will auto- 
matically detect the drop in a pressure that accom- 
panies a loss of coolant and activate the Emergen- 
cy Core Cooling System, which will control the 
problem until it is resolved, if the system is left 
to respond as designed. For a variety of reasons, 
control room personnel did not diagnose the stuck- 
open PORV and the resulting loss-of -coolant for 
over two hours. In fact, they overrode the Emer- 
gency Core Cooling System shortly after it came 
on. A minor incident would soon become a major 

At 41 seconds into the accident. 4 K)l :17. the op- 
erators, as they had been trained to do when the 
reactor scrams, manually started one of the three 
make-up pumps that inject borated water into the 
primary system in order to counteract the decrease 
in pressure that typically follows a scram. 9 Boron 
absorbs neutrons, further insuring shutdown of 

the nuclear chain reaction. Zewe later explained 
that this was a normal operator response to a feed- 
water transient. (12) 

In less than a minute after the reactor tripped, 
the water level in the pressurizer had fallen from 
its normal level of between 200 and 250 inches to a 
low of 158 inches. (13) Pressure in the primary 
system also continued to fall. This pattern was 
typical of what happens after a reactor scrams, 
and the transient seemed to be routine. 


At about this time, an unusual condition arose. 
The level of the coolant in the pressurizer sud- 
denly began to rise ; by six minutes into the acci- 
dent', it would reach at least 400 inches. 10 (14) At 
the same time, pressure in the primary system 
continued to decrease. 11 The operators, not realiz- 
ing the PORV was still open, would be confused 
by these conflicting symptoms. 

' One make-up pomp was running when the accident began. See p. 115 for a description of the relation between 
uiake-up and high pressure injection systems. 

** Actual levels could not be read since the scale only went to 400 inches. 
11 Normally pressurizer level and primary system pressure move together. 


Without the flow of feedwater, the secondary 
side of the steam generators soon boiled dry, and 
even less heat was being removed from the primary 
system. The reactor coolant heated up still further, 
expanding and pushing the water level in the pres- 
surizer farther up. Pressure in the primary sys- 
tem continued to drop. 


By two minutes into the accident, pressure in 
the primary system had fallen to 1,640 psi, the 
point at which the Emergency Core Cooling Sys- 
tem is actuated. (15) The high pressure injection 
system (HPI) , part of the Emergency Core Cool- 
ing System, started automatically. 12 Two pumps 
injected water from the borated water storage 
tanks into the primary system at a combined rate 
of 1,000 gallons a minute. This rate of flow was 
fully adequate to compensate for the still- 
undetected loss of coolant through the PORV. 

Normally, automatic actuation of the HPI sys- 
tem indicates a loss-of-coolant accident. However, 
as described in the previous chapter, on several 
other occasions, the HPI system at TMI-2 had 
come on in response to less significant incidents, 
and the operators had come to discount it as a clear 
indication of a LOCA. 13 

Further, the pressurizer level was continuing to 
rise, a condition the operators found significant. 
They had no direct way of measuring the water 
level in the reactor vessel and therefore had to rely 
on the water level in the pressurizer for an indirect 
indication. Their training led them to interpret the 
high pressurizer level to mean there was adequate 
water in the primary system to cover the core. 


In fact, as the water level continued to rise 
rapidly, the operators said they became worried 
that the pressurizer was "going solid"- that is, fill- 
ing completely with water. (17) This could cause 
the steam bubble normally at the top of the pres- 
surizer to collapse, which would in turn seriously 
impede the operators' ability to control pressure 
in the primary system. 14 Such a condition could 
result in damage, possibly as severe as a rupture 
in the primary system, (18) if there should be 
sudden increases in pressure. Consequently, opera- 
tors were taught to prevent the pressurizer from 
going solid. (19) 


At 3 minutes and 13 seconds into the accident 
4 :03 :49 the operators overrode the safety equip- 
ment and took manual control of the HPI pumps. 
At 4 minutes and 38 seconds into the accident, 
4:05 :14, they greatly throttled the flow of HPI by 
turning off one pump and cutting the other back 
from 500 to about 25 gallons per minute. The opera- 
tors also began to drain coolant out of the primary 
system through the let-down line 15 at a rate in 
excess of 160 gallons per minute. (20) By this 
action, the operators also overrode the automatic 
isolation of the let-down system. Water drained 
through the let-down system is pumped into the 
adjacent auxiliary building, which cannot be 
sealed; this system later became a pathway for 
radioactive releases. 

Both actions throttling the HPI and draining 
off the coolant were intended to lower the water 
level in the pressurizer. By 4:06, the pressurizer 
appeared to be solid. No matter what actions the 
operators took, they could not reduce the water 
level in the pressurizer significantly or reestablish 
the steam bubble. 

In fact, their actions were worsening the loss- 
of-coolant. Water escaping through the stuck-open 
PORV and the let-down system was not being ade- 
quately replaced. 


All the operators have stated that they throttled 
HPI in response to the rapidly increasing pres- 
surizer level, (21) that they had been worried the 
system would "go solid." The level was reading 
at least 400 inches (the top of the scale) and fluc- 
tuated between there and 370 inches for most of 
the next two hours. (22) 

Scheimann, who by this time had returned to 
the control room, recalled that when he gave the 
order to throttle HPI, pressure in the primary 
system was "low and stable." (23) Although 
troubled by the low pressure, he said. "It would 
have concerned me a heck of a lot more if it [the 
pressure] was still going down." (24) 

Michael Ross, the TMI-1 Supervisor of Opera- 
tions who had come over to Unit 2 shortly after 
the accident began, explained the operators' pre- 
occupation with the pressurizer level to Station 
Manager Gary Miller. At a review meeting held 
by GPU two weeks after the accident, he said : 

One thing on the pressurizer level that I 
want to make sure you [Gary Miller] 

" When HPI came on, it tripped one of the make-up pumps that was already operating, increased the flow of the 
pump started earlier by the operators, and activated a third pump. 

13 See "Prior to the Accident," p. 72. 

14 The steam 'bubble acts as a cushion to dampen fluctuations in primary system pressure. 

15 See "Technical Glossary," Appendix E, p. 371. 


fullv understand. WeVe taught our oper- 
ators, and we have a B&W written cau- 
tion to never take the plant solid. Uncon- 
sciously we have told them all the tune, 
-never" take the plant solid." 1 (25) 


Even with HPI throttled and the let-down flow 
increased, the control room personnel still could 
not reestablish the steam bubble in the pressurizer. 
Frederick later noted that the personnel realized 
their attempt to lower the pressurizer level by 
throttling the HPI flow "was not working./' (26) 
We increased letdown, and we verified 
the path from the bleed tank. "We thought 
maybe our letdown passage was blocked : 
that's why we filled up so fast. We tried 
several things to try to establish pressur- 
izer level. (27) 

The problem with the pressurizer preoccupied 
the control room personnel for much of the first 
hour of the accident. In Scheimann's words : 
... we sat there for quite a while with 
pressurizer level up at the high end and 
pressure holding constant at around 1100 
to 1200 pounds. And it sort of, like sta- 
bilized out right where it was at. Periodi- 
cally. I could, by use of the letdown sys- 
tem", get pressurizer level back down into 
a visible range: however, it just wouldn't 
seem to stay there. It would drift down a 
little bit. then would go back up again. 

Zewe could not understand why the pressurizer 
level remained high despite the operators' efforts : 

I didn't know where the water could be 
coming from, except that if fmaybe] we 
had some high-pressure injection valves 
leaking: that were still feeding water, 
even though we were throttling back I 
did not know where the water was from. 

He added that : 

It was a real problem, in that I really 
couldn't determine whv it was acting 
that way. I really couldn't think of any 
logical explanation. . . ." (30) 

The control room personnel said that the re- 
sponse of the primary system to the solid pres- 
surizer also confused them. In Frederick's words, 

. . . The pressurizer went full and we be- 
lieved it [the reactor coolant system] was 
full. It must have been full of water, but 
the next confusing thing was the system 
wasn't reacting as if it was solid. We 
weren't seeing pressure spikes, so I dont 
know if anyone concluded that there was 
steam building someplace else. It was hap- 
pening so fast, but we knew that we 
weren't solid. 18 (31) 

Frederick said further that at one point the con- 
trol room personnel began to doubt the accuracy 
of the pressurizer level gauge. (32) According to 
Zewe, they checked several redundant level indi- 
cators, requested a reading on the level from the 
computer in the control room and had an auxiliary 
operator check the level from a station in the aux- 
iliary building. Zewe said they became convinced 
the gauge was accurate. (33) 

The control room personnel did not realize that 
under certain conditions, pressurizer level cannot 
be relied on to reflect the water level in the reactor 

Those conditions were present that morning at 
the plant. They had also been present during a 
previous incident in 1977, when steam became 
trapped in the hotlegs, causing water level in the 
pressurizer to rise, while pressure in the primary 
system fell. The operators on duty at this time 
were apparently unaware of this earlier incident. 19 
Faced with two anomalous symptoms, one in- 
dicating too much water in the primary system 
(high pressurizer level), the other a condition in 
which water was being lost or the primary system 
was being cooled too rapidly (low primary system 
pressure), the operators chose to respond to the 
first. By throttling HPI. they had in effect con- 
cluded that the problem was not the result of an 
ongoing loss of coolant. 10 


By about the time the pressurizer appeared to 
be solid about six minutes into the accident 
saturation had been reached in the primary sys- 
tem : with pressure down, the water had begun to 
boil. 11 The resulting steam bubbles in the coolant 

14 The text of the caution appears in the addenda to this chapter. See Addendum 1, p. 153. 

17 For further statements by control room personnel regarding the high pressurizer level, see Addendum 2. p. 153 

* When the system is solid, pressure responds very rapidly to perturbations in the flow of coolant. As more water is 
being pumped in, the instrumentation should show sharp increases in pressure, or spikes. These did not appear, confusing 
the operators. 

" See "Prior to the Accident," p. 65. for a description of this earlier incident which occurred during pre-operational 
testing. Steam would become trapped in the hotlegs later on in the day. 

" See Addendum 3. p. 153. 

a When pressure is lowered, the boiling point of the coolant is lowered. As that point is reached, bubbles begin to 
form in the water, also known as voids. This condition is called saturation. 


displaced the water, pushing it into the pressurizer 
and keeping the level up. The water being lost 
through the stuck-open PORV was not being ade- 
quately replenished, as the operators had throttled 
the HPI pumps in an unsuccessful attempt to keep 
the pressurizer from going solid. The core was on 
its way to being uncovered. 22 


During this period, and for about the next two 
hours, Faust was responsible for the feedwater 
system on the secondary side, while Frederick and 
Scheimann handled the primary system. (35) 
Zewe supervised their efforts. (36) 

Eight minutes into the accident, Faust realized 
that no emergency feedwater was flowing into the 
secondary side of the steam generators. He had 
been checking the valves and discovered that a 
pair of emergency feedwater valves "No. 12 
valves" that were always supposed to be open 
were closed. Faust opened them, thus reestablish- 
ing the flow. (37) 

It is generally accepted that the loss of emer- 
gency feedwater for these eight minutes had no 
significant effect on the outcome of the accident. 
(38) However, it did add to the confusion and 
distracted the operators as they sought to under- 
stand what was happening. (39) 

It is still not known when or why the valves 
were closed. No TMI plant worker, operator or 
supervisor has acknowledged closing them. Two 
days prior to the accident, the system had been 
tested, which required shutting and reopening the 
valves. 23 The utility admits the possibility that the 
valves were not reopened following this test. 24 (40) 

Once Faust had established the flow of emer- 
gency feedwater, he attempted to reestablish flow 
in the main feedwater system to facilitate cool- 
down of the plant. 25 However, the control room 
personnel found other problems. 26 Zewe com- 
mented that as the various difficulties became evi- 
dent, "... I diverted a lot of my attention to 
those items while they [Scheimann and Fred- 
erick] were looking at the primary plant." (41) 


At around 4 :20 a.m., Zewe left the control room 
and went to the turbine building to try to fix some 
condensate polishing equipment. (42) He did not 
return until sometime between 4 :50 and 5 :00 a.m. 

He described his general perception of the se- 
verity of the accident at the time he left. His 
statement shows that plant conditions were not 
understood at this time : 

. . . very soon into the accident and I'm 
just saying within the first 5 minutes we 
knew that we had an abnormal situation. 
Then again there has not been a trip that 
has really been textbook so to speak . . . 
I didn't feel at this point in tune, that 
the situation that we had, alright, was 
. . . [a] very serious problem. But that 
we did have an unusual situation with the 
low pressure and a high level, ... I didn't 
feel that we had anywhere near the scope 
of seriousness of the accident that we 
later developed into. . . . (44) 

Faust did not realize what was happening 
either : 

The primary [system] at the time seemed 
to have stabilized out with not a desirable 
condition, but with I only remember as 
being a high steam generator or a high 
pressurizer level, and a low pressure, but 
holding. (45) 

Such perceptions and responses the operators 
and managers incorrectly diagnosing the serious- 
ness of the accident, people being absent from the 
control room and attention focusing on relatively 
less important systems or components while fail- 
ing to recognize the significance of other condi- 
tions would recur during the day. 

It would be some time before anyone became 
really concerned. For Zewe, it was not until 

... we got into the point to where we 
had to secure the cooling pumps or where 
we chose to secure the reactor coolant 
pumps. 27 (46) 

22 Following the accident at Three Mile Island, the NRC issued a requirement that all operating reactors install 
primary coolant saturation meters to provide readings on saturation conditions. Ironically, on February 26, 1980, Florida 
Power Corporation's Crystal River-3 reactor was forced to shut down as a result of a loss of power related directly to 
the installation of the instrument. The loss of power was apparently caused by a short in the electronics installed in 
response to the post-TMI NRC requirement. The accident resulted in dose rates up to 60 R/hr in the containment building. 
They declined to less than 0.2 R/hr in five hours. (34) See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," p. 43, for a description of 
the units of measure for radiation. 

23 Closing the valves during testing while the plant is in operation was a violation of the Technical Specifications to 
which the utility was legally obligated to adhere. The NRC has fined Met Ed $155,000 for this and other violations. See 
"Recovery at Three Mile Island." pp. 210-211. 

M On the basis of an FBI investigation, which found no evidence of sabotage, and because of limited staff resources, 
the Special Investigation did not pursue the possibility of sabotage. 

26 Cooldown involves removal of decay heat so that low temperature, low pressure conditions can be established in the 
primary system. 

26 See Addendum 4, p. 153, for a description. 

" This occurred between 5 :15 and 5 :41 a.m. See pp. 104-105. 


For Scheimann that recognition came at about 
6 :30 a,m. : 

. . . probably at the point where we were 
starting to get the radiation monitors 
and the different alarms . . . That was 
the point where I was concerned that it 
was more than an ordinary trip that we 
had seen in the past. (47) 


Within the first few minutes of the accident, 
more than a hundred alarms had activated on the 
overhead panels in the control room. (48) The 
difficulties posed by this and other features of 
the alarm system were familiar to the control 
room personnel. 28 

In Faust's opinion, the alarms "got in the way" 
of the operators' efforts to diagnose the accident. 
(49) Frederick said the operators ". . . disre- 
gard[ed] generally the annunciator [alarm] sys- 
tem as a whole, because it was not giving iis use- 
ful information." (50) Zewe. when asked how 
useful the alarm system had been in diagnosing 
the accident, replied. "Xot very helpful." (51) 

As noted in the previous chapter, the operators 
had decided not to acknowledge the alarms acti- 
vated during the initial stages of a complicated 
transient until they had a chance to read them. 2 " 
(52) However, in Zewe's words: 

. . . the transient was so severe from the 
standpoint of alarms, that [for] several 
minutes, it was just intolerable to go 
through each of the flashing alarms, so I 
then acknowledged the alarms to silence 
the alarm in the control room and just try 
to handle the casualty based on plant 
parameters, more so than alarm re- 
sponses. (53) 

Frederick said that after the first five minutes, 
the alarms were activating at a much slower rate. 
(54) Even at that slower rate, the control room 
personnel differed on the usefulness of the system. 
Zewe found that it was helpful: 

Any new and subsequent alarms that 
came in after that then were a lot more 
meaningful because they came in at a 
time fashion to where we could acknowl- 
edge them and take action based on the 
new incoming alarms. (55) 

Frederick, on the other hand, said that it was 
still "hard to tell" when new alarms were acti- 
vated because so many were already lit and the 
alarm noise does not change with additional an- 
nunciators. (56) 

M See "Prior to the Accident," pp. 67-70. 
" See "Prior to the Accident," p. 69. 
" See "Prior to the Accident," p. 71. 


The plant computer also proved of little use, 
again as control room personnel had anticipated. 30 
During the early stages of the accident, the com- 
puter could not keep pace with the volume of 
incoming alarms, and developed a one-and-one- 
half hour backlog. (57) In addition, the paper 
in the alarm printer jammed. (58) A post-accident 
review revealed that none of the alarms activated 
in the computer from 5:14 a.m. to 6:48 a.m. was 
printed out. (59) Zewe hypothesized that the rec- 
ord of those alarms, which should have been stored 
in the computer's memory, were erased by a tech- 
nician when trying to fix the printer. (60) 


Still unknown to the control room personnel, 
steam and water were continuing to pour out of 
the PORV and into the reactor coolant drain tank, 
located in the containment. The tank was not de- 
signed to collect flow for long periods of time, 
since normally the valve opens for just a few 

About 4:04. pressure in the tank reached 150 
psi, the point at which the tank's pressure relief 
valve lifts. It did so, and steam and water, which 
were at this point very slightly radioactive, 
escaped into the containment. Pumps in the con- 
tainment sump channeled the water into a waste 
storage tank in the adjacent auxiliary building. 

When the relief valve on the tank opened, pres- 
sure in the tank leveled off for several minutes. 
Then it began to rise again, (62) as water con- 
tinued to pour in. When, 15 minutes into the ac- 
cident, the pressure reached about 200 psi. an 18- 
inch rupture disc at the top of the tank blew as 
it was designed to. Pressure in the tank immedi- 
ately dropped to just under 20 psi. (63) More 
slightly radioactive water spilled onto the floor 
of the containment. It, too, was pumped into the 
tank in the auxiliary building. (64) 

These very low-level radioactive releases were 
the first from the containment. 

As a result of the blown rupture disc and the 
release of coolant into the containment, tempera- 
ture and pressure in that building began to in- 
crease. Pressure did not, at this time, reach the 
point at which the containment automatically 
seals itself, closing off the pathways, including the 
sump pump lines, to the auxiliary building. Had 
the Unit 2 containment been designed to seal auto- 
matically upon actuation of the HPI. as it is at 
some plants, the radioactive water would not have 


been automatically pumped outside the contain- 
ment. 31 

Within 30 minutes, the tank in the auxiliary 
building overflowed, releasing small amounts of 
radioactivity into the building itself. Some of this, 
in turn, escaped out the stack into the atmosphere. 
At this time there was inadequate means of meas- 
uring offsite releases. 32 It has since been calculated 
that the releases were minimal and posed no health 
hazard. 33 
Response to Conditions in the Drain Tank 

Many control room personnel were aware of the 
increases in temperature and pressure in the con- 
tainment and deduced that they had been caused 
by the rupture of the tank. However, they failed 
to recognize this as an indicator of an ongoing 
loss of coolant through the PORV. (66) 

Ken Bryan, a TMI-1 Shift Supervisor who ar- 
rived in the control room about 4 :08 a,m., recalled 
that shortly after he came into the room, 

Somebody came around the corner and 
said that the reactor coolant drain tank 
was full and how about pumping it down ? 
I walked around to pump it down and it 
was empty. I looked and there wasn't any 
water in it. The indication was downscale 
all the way. I said oh ! oh ! and then I sort 
of walked around front again. (67) 
Bryan also recalled that at some point after 
he noticed the loss of level in the tank, he heard 
the containment fire alarm. (68) He said the op- 
erators checked the temperature in the contain- 
ment and found it was rising. (69) According to 
Bryan, "... I think about this time we figured 
that we blew the rupture disc on the drain tank." 34 

Zewe also was aware that something had hap- 
pened to the drain tank. He recalled that at ap- 
proximately 20 to 25 minutes into the accident he 
checked the gauges and noticed that the tempera- 
ture in the drain tank was high, while pressure 
and level were low. (71) Zewe surmised, "We 
either had lifted the relief valve on it and it was 
still open or we blew the rupture disc on it. Or 
something else happened to the tank ... I didn't 
know at that point." (72) 

In another interview, Zewe said he also had 
noticed that the pump which circulates water from 

the tank through a cooling system ". . . had a very 
low discharge pressure [which] means that we 
ruptured the RC [reactor coolant] drain tank." 
(73) A low discharge pressure means there is little 
or no water in the tank. Frederick also was aware 
of the low discharge pressure : "It didn't seem like 
the pump was pumping." 35 (74) 

George Kunder, the TMI-2 Superintendent for 
Technical Support and the Duty Officer that day, 36 
arrived in the control room at 4:50 a.m., having 
been called about the turbine trip and reactor 
scram. (75) He said that when he checked the con- 
tainment pressure strip chart, it read "around 2, 
2.2 pounds," (76) an indication ". . . that we did 
have a pressure rise in the containment which 
likely had come from the reactor coolant drain 
tank rupture disc blowing. . . ." 37 (77) 

On the other hand, others did not conclude that 
the drain tank had ruptured. When Frederick 
checked the instrumentation for the drain tank 
about 40 minutes into the accident, pressure had 
already returned to normal. (78) He said he did 
not know that the rupture disc had already 
blown, 38 (80) and he thought the monitoring in- 
struments in the tank had been damaged : 

I assumed that we just damaged all those 
instruments by blowing the relief valves 
in there. Okay. We either blew it dry or, 
you know, a sudden surge of pressure 
was too much for the instruments. Then 
they failed. (81) 

Temperature and pressure in the containment 
continued to rise steadily after the rupture, going 
from 120F to 170F and psi to 2.5 psi, respec- 

The control room personnel failed to recognize 
that the abnormal conditions in the drain tank, 
and the resultant increases in temperature and 
pressure in the containment, were caused by con- 
tinuing loss of coolant through the stuck-open 
PORV. Their statements indicate that many were 
unaware of all the symptoms or of their sequence. 
It should be noted that the instrumentation show- 
ing the temperature, pressure and water level in 
the reactor coolant drain tank was located on the 
back of a panel in the control room, out of the line 
of sight of the main console. Further, there was no 

31 At TMI-2, the containment did not seal until 7 :56 a.m., in response to high pressure. (65) 

32 See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," p. 44. 

" The releases were estimated through back-calculations that were supported by evidence developed by the Food and 
Drug Administration. See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," pp. 44-45. 

34 See Addendum 5, p. 153, for other statements by Bryan. 

M Ordinarily, the pump operates intermittently to remove water that collects in the tank from various leaks normally 
occurring around pumps and valves in the primary system. 

* He was licensed on Unit 1 and was studying to obtain his license for Unit 2. 

37 For further statements on this matter, see Addendum 6, pp. 153-154. 

"* In an interview conducted several weeks after the accident, Frederick said that "a few minutes" after the accident 
began, he checked the instruments and noticed that pressure and temperature were high and the level was "down." (79) 
If so. and had he believed the instruments, then he could have deduced that the rupture disc had blown when, 40 
minutes into the accident, he saw that pressure in the tank was normal. 


strip chart which recorded conditions in the tank 
over time, making it difficult to reconstruct trends 
and to connect the rupture of the drain tank with 
the long-term loss of coolant through the PORV. 
Without knowing the sequence, an operator aware 
of one abnormal condition would not necessarily 
see it in terms of a progression of events indicative 
of an ongoing loss of coolant Further, as is evi- 
dent from Frederick's statements, when the indi- 
cators were checked subsequent to the rupture of 
the disc, some conditions, such as pressure, were 
back to normal. (82) Some personnel said they 
were misled by this into thinking nothing was un- 
usual. Frederick, for example, later explained that 
since the pressure in the drain tank did not ap- 
pear to be elevated, he did not suspect the PORV 
was still open. (83) 

In this same time frame, at about 24 minutes 
into the accident. Zewe asked Bryan to get read- 
ings of the temperatures in the discharge line lead- 
ing from the pressurizer relief valves. (84) The 
temperatures were high and were a further indi- 
cation of flow into the drain tank. The actions and 
statements of the control room personnel provide 
no evidence that they understood the cause of what 
they were seeing. 


The continuing loss of coolant led to another 
symptom which appeared at this time, but. again, 
its implications were not understood. Water had 
been flowing into the auxiliary building for about 
half an hour. At this point, an auxiliary operator 
noticed that both sump pumps were running. The 
auxiliary building storage tank was overflowing 
onto the floor, and a control panel in the auxiliary 
building showed that the water level in the sump 
was high. (85) He reported these facts to the con- 
trol room. (86) 

Frederick got a sump level reading from the 
computer: it showed 5.999 feet, the top of the 
scale, suggesting that the actual level was off- 
scale. 39 (87) When Zewe heard this it was about 
40 minutes into the accident he ordered Fred- 
erick to shut off the pumps. (88) Zewe said: 
". . . and we knew at that point that . . . the 
water from the RC drain tank was going into the 
sump." 40 (89) 

Persistent low pressure in the primary system 
is another indication that a LOCA may be in 
progress. Control room personnel had noticed this 
symptom, but again they did not attribute it to an 
ongoing loss of coolant. (90) 

One reason for the confusion over primary sys- 
tem pressure was that it had stabilized at a low 
point about 30 minutes into the accident. Zewe, 
for one, said : 

I really did not feel that we had a loss of 
pressure, anyway . . . [A]t this point in 
time, we had a rather stable pressure con- 
figuration, even though it was low. We 
did not have a continuing loss of pres- 
sure. (91) 

Kunder, who had arrived at 4:50. said that he 
found the situation confusing because he had 
never seen pressurizer level pegged in the high 
range with a concurrent low primary pressure. He 
recalled that before these two parameters had al- 
ways performed consistently. (92) 

The operators were later to describe the accident 
as a combination of events they had never experi- 
enced, either in operating the plant or in training 
on simulated emergencies. (93) All stated they 
knew the combination of high pressurizer level 
and low system pressure indicated an unusual 
transient. (94) Zewe and Scheimann, however, 
said they would have been more concerned had 
pressure not stabilized, albeit at a low point. (95) 

Zewe said that when he returned to the control 
room just prior to 5 a.m., the operators began "try- 
ing to put our heads together*' to come up with an 
explanation for the accident. (96) 

. . . All of us were talking together . . . 
trying to come up with why the strange 
indication. Everything looked very good 
except pressure was low, and level was 
high (97) 


For about the next half hour the control room 
personnel considered different scenarios, based on 
symptoms described in the emergency procedures 
that appeared to match the symptoms being ex- 
hibited. 41 These symptoms included high pressur- 
izer level, low primary system pressure, elevated 
containment temperature and pressure, and an off- 
scale high water level in the containment sump. 

Radiation did not appear to be a key symptom 
at this time. Control room personnel recalled only 
one radiation alarm during this period at 5 :18. 
(98) It was activated by an intermediate let -down 
cooler radiation monitor that normally measures 
radioactivity in the water in the secondary side of 
the let-down heat exchanger. (99) Zewe did not 
consider it significant. (100) He said he knew that 

" This scale, like others, was calibrated for normal operating, not accident conditions. 

** See also Addendum 7. p. 154. 

" Emergency procedures are written instructions designed to assist the operator in responding to specific transients 
and accidents. The procedure for a particular event lists the symptoms that that event is expected to produce. It also 
specifies immediate actions and followup actions that the operator must take to respond effectively to the situation. 
Statements by control room personnel on the use of the procedures appear in Addendum S, p. 154. 


the monitors had very low setpoints, were very 
sensitive and were located near the sump into 
which the slightly radioactive water from the 
drain tank had flowed. ( 101 ) 

The four possible scenarios (102) the control 
room personnel remembered considering were : 

A rupture in the steam line running from 
the "B" steam generator ; 

Leakage from the primary to secondary 
system through the tubes 42 in this steam 
generator ; 

A break in the emergency feedwater line; 

A LOCA. 43 


With respect to a LOCA, the control room per- 
sonnel had differing recollections aboiit whether 
they explicitly considered it. Zewe said he never 

It really did not enter my mind that we 
had a loss-of-coolant accident. I didn't 
fully understand what I had, but I al- 
ways think, in terms of a loss-of-coolant 
accident . . . that your pressurizer level 
is a big key. But I had the reverse of 
what it would have been for a loss of 
[coolant] level. (103) 

He also misinterpreted another symptom: 

I never really considered that we had a 
LOCA. The automatic actuation of the 
engineering safety feature system [high 
pressure injection], I felt at the time 
was because of feedwater initiation. (104) 

Kunder likewise never considered that they 
had a loss-of-coolant accident. (105) 

However, Faust and Frederick said they postu- 
lated a LOCA. Faust noted, ". . . we were looking 
at possibilities of a LOCA for one thing." (106) 
Others recalled referring to the LOCA Emer- 
gency Procedure, (107) although it is not clear 
exactly when. Frederick said they discussed the 
LOCA Emergency Procedure in order to deter- 
mine whether the accident involved a steam line 
break or a loss of coolant. (108) 

In the course of the accident, the operators re- 
ferred to emergency procedures dealing with pos- 
sible types of accidents. The procedure for LOCAs 
appears to have been based on the assumption 
that specific symptoms would become apparent 
almost simultaneously at the beginning of the 
accident. In effect, the procedure took a "cook- 
book" approach which assumed that all the symp- 

toms of a LOCA would be present unambiguous- 
ly. It did not tell how operators should interpret 
an ambiguous or different set of symptoms, nor 
did it state which symptoms were the most im- 
portant, to be responded to even if other symp- 
toms were absent or seemingly contradictory. 

However, it should be noted that procedures 
are based on certain foreseeable circumstances and 
are not meant to cover all possible situations or 
to substitute for operator training and judgment 
in unforeseen situations. In several other respects 
the operators found the procedures to be vague, 
confusing, incomplete and hard to understand. 44 

A LOCA Is Rejected 

The conclusion reached, according to Frederick, 
was that the accident was not a LOCA. (109) 

There were several reasons why operators failed 
to interpret the symptoms as a LOCA. For one, in 
their diagnosis of the situation they stressed the 
importance of the seemingly unusual sequence of 
three of the key symptoms of the accident : low pri- 
mary system pressure, high containment pressure 
and water in the containment sump. (110) They 
expected that these symptoms would occur almost 
simultaneously during a LOCA. (Ill) Zewe ex- 
plained that their training for LOCAs led them 
to look for these symptoms to occur "within sec- 
onds of each other." (112) 

In this case, there was a delay between when the 
PORV was to have closed and when two of the 
symptoms of the LOCA occurred. Because of the 
size and location of the source of the LOCA the 
stuck-open PORV the water and steam from the 
leak remained in the reactor coolant drain tank for 
15 minutes, at which point the drain tank rupture 
disc burst, leading to high containment pressure 
and water in the sump. By that time, the reactor 
coolant system pressure had stabilized. Thus when 
the operators became aware of symptoms such as 
the high water level in the containment sump, they 
did not relate them to the drop in primary system 
pressure. (113) Instead, their statements"indicate 
they viewed them as unrelated, possibly caused by 
an event different from that which caused the ini- 
tial drop in pressure. (114) 

The Emerffencv Procedure states that one of the 
symptoms of a LOCA is a "rapid continuing de- 
crease" in reactor coolant system pressure. The 
procedure does not explain, however, when or even 
whether that decrease will level out. In a LOCA 
involving a relatively small-sized break such as the 
March 28 accident at TMI, the primary system 
pressure would be expected to stabilize at a rela- 
tively high level at some point after the accident 
began, as it in fact did. (115) Not realizing this 

" A break in a small primary pipe in the steam generator which releases radioactive primary water into the secondary 

" For further details on the choice of possibilities, see Addendum 9, pp. 154-155. 
** See Addendum 10, pp. 155-156. 


was typical, the control room personnel inter- 
preted it to mean that a LOCA was not taking 

Second, although both Faust and Frederick 
agreed that all the symptoms listed in a procedure 
need not be present for the procedure to be consid- 
ered applicable. ( 116) the absence of one key symp- 
tom described in the LOCA Emergency Procedure 
(117) led the operators to believe that the accident 
involved something other than a loss of coolant. 
The Absence of a Key Alarm 

A key symptom referred to in the LOCA Emer- 
gency Procedure it is described as a "unique" 
symptom is the HP-R-227 radiation monitor 
alarm. (118) It is critical, though not essential, for 
diagnosing a LOCA. since the monitor measures 
particulate and iodine gas radiation in the atmos- 
phere of the containment. 4 * 

Zewe. when asked what significance the HP-R- 
2-27 alarm would have had during the first two 
hours of the March 28 accident, replied : 

[O]ne of the things you look for if you do 
have a LOCA is that you have activity 
indicated on the atmospheric monitor in 
the building, so that certainly would have 
been a key. (120) 

Further, this symptom generally does not appear 
in the event of either a steam line break or a tube 

Xone of the control room personnel said they re- 
called the alarm from the HP-R-227 radiation 
monitor coming on (it did not do so even around 
6 :45 a.m.. when most of the other radiation moni- 
tors were activated). (121) They said they had 
specifically checked for it. According to Zewe. 

I looked at the panel several times during 
the first two hours into the accident and 
the alarm would have been very evident. 
Plus. I had a shift foreman [Scheimann] 
that was right at the primary plant con- 
trols which is directly across from the 
alarm panel and I'm certain that he would 
not have missed an alarm, because you 
would have had to acknowledge it and it 
has its own alarm sound. (122) 

Frederick stated that according to the control 
room personnels' interpretation of the emergency 
procedure, the radiation alarm was the feature by 
which LOCAs could be distinguished from two 
other accidents having some characteristics similar 
to a LOCA : a primary to secondary system tube 
leak in the steam generator and a steam line break. 

(123) Frederick said that when the operators re- 
ferred to the "Symptoms" section of the LOCA 
Emergency Procedure, 

We had to decide whether what we had 
was a large steam leak or a loss of coolant. 
The difference between the two. according 
to these procedures, is a radiation alarm 
in the building, and a radiation alarm 
never came in. (124) 

Frederick said further : 

We decided it was a non-radioactive leak, 
therefore, it must be the steam system and 
not the reactor coolant system. The symp- 
toms are identical except for the radiation 
alarm. (125) 

Faust gave a similar explanation : 

If you look at the diagnostic chart for de- 
termining whether you have a steam leak, 
or a primary leak, there is only one differ- 
ence, and that is the radiation level. And 
whether or not you're going to fall into 
a LOCA procedure is determined by 
whether or not you have a direct radia- 
tion alarm. That's how the procedure 
reads. There was no radiation alarm, we 
were not in the LOCA procedure. That's 
how it is. (126) 

Problem* with the Monitor. According to two 
XRC inspectors who analyzed the failure of the 
alarm to sound, it may have been miscalibrated. 
(127) Their post-accident review of the strip chart 
for the monitor showed that from 5 :05 a,m. to 5 :25 
a.m.. it was detecting levels of radiation above the 
point at which the alarm was to activate. Larry 
Jackson, an XRC inspector who studied the strip 
chart, told the Special Investigation staff that it 
is possible the level of activity detected by the mon- 
itor did not go far enough past the alarm setpoint 
to activate it in that period. (128) He also said 
that if the alarm setpoint had been even slightly 
miscalibrated, it would have prevented the alarm 
from coming on. (129) He stressed that he had 
not checked the monitor to determine if it was mis- 
calibrated. 46 (130) 

A second possible reason the alarm may not 
have gone off was found later that morning, at 
about 5 :50 a.m.. when the core was first becoming 
uncovered. (131) Joseph B. Logan. Unit 2 Super- 
intendent, and Richard W. Dubiel, Supervisor of 
Radiation Protection and Chemistry, had joined 
Kunder in the control room. Dubiel said that just 
after he arrived. Kunder asked him to remove the 

" The monitor is located in the auxiliary building ; (119) its readings appear on a gauge and strip chart in the control 
room. If the readings go above a certain level, an alarm light on the control panel and a high-pitched horn will be 

"The radiation monitor has been inaccessible because it is located in the auxiliary building, an area of high 
radiation levels. 


charcoal filter in the HP-R-227 monitor. (132) 
Dubiel described what he found: 

He fKunder] . . . was very interested in 
getting a reactor building [containment] 
atmosphere sample and in making prepa- 
rations for a reactor building entry. I got 
the technician, went down and we tried to 
get a sample of HP-R-227, which is the 
reactor building atmosphere monitor. 

As we opened up the iodine monitor 
holding a charcoal cartridge, a large 
amount of water came out. I immediately 
closed it back up, and with the amount of 
water in there, my first thought was that 
we had some type of a steam environment 
in the reactor building atmosphere caus- 
ing some condensation in the sample lines, 
and getting water into the monitor. [S]o 
I called George and told him we could not 
get a sample off that monitor because it 
was full of water. (133) 

Larry Jackson, the NRC inspector, said that 
water in the sample line would both have blocked 
the air flow into the monitor and would have had 
a shielding effect. Either would have reduced the 
levels of radioactivity detected by the monitor. 

A review of the monitor strip chart after the 
accident provided support for this explanation. 
(135) It showed that the amounts of radioactivity 
detected by the HP-R-227 decreased until just 
prior to 6 :00 a.m. (136) A decrease would not have 
been likely, given conditions in the containment 
during that time. A steady increase would have 
been more probable. That decrease could have re- 
sulted from the water in the monitor. (137) 

The HP-R-227 monitors should perform well 
in a steam environment, since they are relied upon 
for diagnosing a LOCA, an accident which ex- 
poses them to steam. This apparent design weak- 
ness is of concern to the Subcommittee. 

The Emergency Procedure Misinterpreted 

The control room personnel focused on the HP- 
R-227 radiation alarm monitor as the determi- 
nant of a LOCA because the procedure charac- 
terized it as a "unique" symptom of a LOCA 
which could be used to distinguish between a 
LOCA and a steam line break. The control room 
personnel said they interpreted this to mean that, 
other than for the alarm, the symptoms of a 
LOCA and a steam line break were identical. (138) 

The control room personnel were interpreting 

the emergency procedure to mean that the absence 
of this radiation alarm was conclusive evidence 
that a LOCA was not taking place. This interpre- 
tation is incorrect. Although a LOCA and a steam 
line break inside the containment would produce 
many of the same symptoms in the primary sys- 
tem and the containment atmosphere, the second- 
ary system would behave quite differently. For 
example, pressure on the secondary side of the 
steam generator would be expected to drop sub- 
stantially during a steam line break, but not during 
a LOCA. In short, there were symptoms other 
than the HP-R-227 alarm that operators could 
have used to distinguish the two accidents. 47 

On the other hand, the Special Investigation 
staff found that the wording of the procedure does 
imply that an alarm on HP-R-227 is an extremely 
significant symptom of a LOCA and that the 
wording is broad enough so that the control room 
personnel's confusion is understandable in that 

In another respect, the control room personnel 
used the Emergency Procedure inappropriately. 
Although the radiation alarm was not present, 
neither was the "unique"' symptom of a break in 
the main steam line. (139) If the procedures had 
been followed strictly, both a LOCA and a steam 
line break would have to have been precluded be- 
cause of the absence of their unique indicators. 48 


Around 5 :00 a.m., two more symptoms arose. 

First, not long after 5 :00 a.m., the four reactor 
coolant pumps began to vibrate excessively. As 
noted, the coolant had become saturated, meaning 
that steam bubbles had formed in it. To protect 
the pumps from possible damage, plant operators 
turned the first two off at 5 :14 a.m. 74 minutes 
into the accident. (140) They did not take any 
corrective actions to return the coolant to an un- 
satu rated state, as they were not aware of that 
condition. (141) 

Then, at 5 :15 a.m., a reactor coolant sample was 
analyzed to determine, among other things, the 
concentration of boron in the water. The results 
showed less boron than prior to shutdown, even 
though the operators had been adding it contin- 
uously since 4:00 a.m. (142) When the operators 
and managers started getting higher neutron 
counts from the source and intermediate range 
monitors, 49 they interpreted them as confirmation 
of the low concentration of boron. (143) They said 

"This fact is reflected both in LOCA Emergency Procedure ("NOTE: 3," on pp. 6-7) and in the steam line 
break Emergency Procedure. The unique symptoms of a steam line break are 1) low condensate storage tank level 
alarm, and/or low hot well level alarm, and 2) Feedwater Latch System Actuation. 

48 See also Addendum 11, p. 156, for another example of inappropriate use of the emergency procedures. 

The nuclear instrumentation includes source and intermediate range monitors that measure the extent of neutron 
activity (or flux) that is occurring in the core. The monitors are located outside the reactor vessel. 


Top of the reactor showing instrumentation cables 

they feared they \vere somehow diluting the boron, 
thereby raising the possibility of recriticality. 
(144) " 

Shortly after the operators isolated the "B" 
steam generator at 5 :27 a.m., 50 pressure in the con- 
tainment began to decrease slowly. (145) The 
change was coincidental, but led some control room 
personnel to conclude that a steam line rupture 
had in fact been causing the increase in pressure. 
In Zewe's words, "So I said; I'll be darned, the 
leaking generator was leaking into the building." 
( 14-6 ) Scheimann commented, "I, myself, thought 
that when we isolated the generator, we might 
have stopped the leak." (147) 

At about 5 :15 a.m.. Station Manager Gary 
Miller called the Unit 2 control room and spoke 
with Kunder. According to Kunder, he told Miller 
he did not understand what was going on in the 
plant. ( 148 ) As a result of this conversation, Mil- 
ler directed that a conference call be established 
between Miller. Kunder, Met Ed Vice President 
for Generation Jack Herbein, and Lee Rogers. 
B&W's site representative. 51 


At 5:41 a.m., still unaware that a LOCA was 
in progress, the control room personnel took a 
critical step. They shut down the last two re- 
actor coolant pumps, which also were vibrating ex- 
cessively. (149) This ended the forced flow of 
cooling water through the core. So long as the 
pumps had been running, the combination of water 
and steam flowing through the core removed 
enough heat to protect it even though coolant was 
being lost. (150) Once the pumps were stopped, 
the steam separated from the water and rose to 
the top of the hotlegs the so-called "candy 
canes" and the water level in the reactor vessel 

The uncovering of the core began very soon 
after circulation stopped. Water was continuing 
to escape out the PORV, at the same time that 
HPI was being throttled, so that the lost coolant 
was not being replaced. The water level continued 
to decline, temperatures to increase, the coolant 
to boil. Not only did the boiling release saturated 

" See Addendum 9, pp. 154-15o, on isolation of the "B" generator. 
" See p. 109. 


5"-058 0-80-8 

steam, which continued to rise toward the higher 
portions of the system, such as the hotlegs, but the 
steam displaced more coolant forcing it into the 
pressurizer and out the PORV. This process would 
continue to uncover the core. 

The control room operators tried to remove the 
heat by establishing natural circulation (i.e., 
convection flow) 52 through the primary system, a 
method that would not require the reactor coolant 
pumps. (151) 

Neither Zewe, Faust, Frederick nor Scheimann 

To Steam 

Reactor vessel 

' From Steam Generator 

Figure A: Normal Conditions- Primary system 
contains water 

had ever used natural circulation to cool down the 
TMI-2 reactor. (152) Although they had prac- 
ticed initiating it at the Babcock & Wilcox simu- 
lator, the practice did not continue long enough 
for them to observe how a plant would respond 
once natural circulation was established. 53 (153) 
Their efforts proved unsuccessful because steam 
had accumulated in the hotlegs, blocking the pas- 
sage of any flow. 
With saturated steam in the hotlegs and no 

flow, a large difference in temperature developed 
between water in the pipes going into the reactor 
vessel the ''coldlegs" and water in the pipes 
coming out the "hotlegs." Based on the evidence 
reviewed by the. Special Investigation staff, the 
control room personnel did not interpret this con- 
dition to mean that there was no flow. 54 

While the control room personnel were trying 
to establish natural circulation, they lost a key 
indicator needed to determine if it was taking 
place. The hotleg temperatures went offscale: the 

[|3 Primary Water 
EFI Saturated Steam 


To Steam 

' From Steam Generator 

Figure B: Primary system contains water 
and saturated steam 

Adapted from: Nuclear Safety Analysis Cer 

temperatures in the "A" loop reached the high 
point on the scale of (520 F at approximately 6 :10 
a.m., the "B" loop at 6 :30 a.m. (154) 

Frederick, trying to determine whether natural 
circulation had been established and having lost 
a key indicator, said that at that point : 

. . . the only thing I figured I could do 
was watch, hold the steam generator 
levels up and watch the temperatures in 
the steam generator and try and deter- 

02 See "Technical Glossary," Appendix E, p. 372. 

10 See Addendum 12, p. 156, for Zewe's comments on the usefulness of the emergency procedure in connection 
with natural circulation. 

54 In order to determine whether cooling of the core is taking place by natural circulation, the "coldleg" temperature 
is subtracted from the "hotleg" temi>erature. The result is called "delta T," meaning the difference in temperature 
between water in the hotleg and in the coldleg. If delta T falls within an appropriate range, it indicates that water 
is flowing through the system, that the steam generators are not dry, and that they are removing heat. 


mine a change in the delta T across the 
core. Now we sat like that for I don't 
know how long. ( 155) 


Hy piecing together the many analyses that 
have l>een carried out since the accident, the actual 
course of events during this period was recon- 
structed. Normal reactor conditions are illustrated 
in Figure A. Primary coolant fills the reactor ve>- 

Primary Water 
Saturated Steam 
Superheated Steam 


To Steam 

Rom Steam Generator 

Figure C: Al pumps off, reactor core drying out and 
heating up. superheated steam flowing to hotlegs. 

sel and flows smoothly through the system. Once 
the coolant began to boil, however, saturated steam 
wa- produced. '"' 

Within minutes of shutting down the last two 
reactor coolant pumps, at around 5:41, the top of 
the reactor vessel was no longer filled with water, 
but rather only with steam (see Figure H). As 
the l(oilin<r continued, the water level in the vessel 
dropped, progressively uncovering the core. Thus. 
Ixiiling water surrounded the lower part of the 
coiv. .-team the up|>er part. The exi>osed fuel above 
the water level l>egau to heat up rapidly. 

While steam will remove some heat, it is ineffi- 
cient for this purl*).-*-. As the steam moved past 

the ever hotter exposed fuel, it removed some of the 
heat, becoming "sii|>erheated" in the process that 
is, heated l>eyond the l>oiling point. 

Water turns to steam and steam to superheated 
steam at precise temperatures and pressures. The 
American Society of Mechanical Engineers pub- 
lishes standardized steam tables that show the 
proi>erties of steam whether saturated or super- 
heated, at varying teniix-ratures and pressures. 
Steam tables were available in the control room at 
Three. Mile Island on March -28. 

Primary Water 
Saturated Steam 

Superheated Steam 
and Hydrogen 

To Steam 

" From Steam Generator 

Figure D: Core dryout and heatup continuing. Superheated 
steam and hydrogen generated by zirconium/water 
reaction collecting in hot legs. 

The superheated steam rose to the higher parts 
of the system, including the hotlegs (Figure C). 
As a result, temi>eratures in the hotlegs rose 
sharply. Once trap|>ed in the hotlegs, even if cool- 
ant is injected into the core in sufficient quantity 
to cover it again, the siqierheated steam may re- 
main in the hotlegs. as it did at TMI."* The very 
high hotleg temperatures that result are unique 
signals that the core has been uncovered. (155) 

Thus suj>erheated steam in the hotlegs can only 
l>e interpreted to mean that the core has been un- 
covered at some time, although it might not nec- 
essarily lie uncovered at the moment. 

Because the steam was not removing heat as 
efficiently as water, the exj>osed fuel rods continued 

tin Inilililes in a boiling ]*>t of water are "saturated'' steam. 
* Snjierheated steam can be condensed into water by increasing pressure or lowering teiuieratnre. 


to heat up. Within a short time, the Zircaloy clad- 
ding around the rods reacted chemically with the 
steam, severely damaging the cladding. The reac- 
tions which were to reach their peak by about 
6 :30 a.m. generated significant quantities of hy- 
drogen, 57 some of which also collected in the higher 
portions of the primary system, particularly in the 
hotlegs (Figure D). This' hydrogen, together with 
the superheated steam in the hotlegs, contributed 
to the blockage of circulation through the system. 
The remainder of the hydrogen escaped into the 
containment through the PORV and the ruptured 
drain tank. (158) 

As the cladding around the fuel rods deteri- 
orated, radioactive gases normally contained by 
the cladding were released into the coolant. (159) 
As the coolant flowed out the PORV, so did the 

If hotleg temperatures and primary system pres- 
sure are known, steam tables can be used to deter- 
mine if superheat conditions have been reached 
in the system. Control room personnel knew by 
6 :10 a.m. that the hotleg temperature in the "A" 
loop had reached at least the upper limit on the 
scale, 620F. At the same time, pressure in the 
primary system was below 1,000 psi. At 620F, 
any pressure below 1,780 psi is indicative of super- 
heated steam conditions in the system. By using 
the steam tables, the control room personnel had 
the means available to deduce that there was super- 
heated steam in the system. 58 Since it is not pos- 
sible to have superheat without the core having 
been uncovered, the control room personnel also 
could have deduced that some portion of the upper 
part of the core, had been uncovered. (160) At this 
time, however, these conditions went unrecog- 
nized. 59 

As the morning progressed and the LOCA went 
undetected, there was a continuing loss of coolant, 
greater uncovering of the core, additional damage 
to the fuel, and further release of radiation to the 
coolant. (161) 


Because of the low boron concentration and high 
neutron readings, the control room personnel said 

they became concerned about increasing nuclear 
activity in the core. (162) In addition, alarms 
indicating low level radiation in the containment 
were sounding periodically. The number of these 
alarms increased considerably about 6 a.m. 

At about that time, Michael Ross asked Scott 
Wilkerson, 6 " a nuclear engineer who had been on 
duty at Unit 1 at the time of the accident, to look 
into the possibility of recriticality that is, the re- 
sumption of the nuclear chain reaction, a develop- 
ment that could have serious consequences. (163) 

After Ross asked Wilkerson to look into the 
possibility of recriticality, Kunder asked Wilker- 
son to have Michael Benson, Unit 2's lead nuclear 
engineer, was called and asked to come in to do a 
post-trip review. 61 When Benson arrived about an 
hour later, Wilkerson, another employee, and he 
looked into the question of recriticality. (164) 


Around 6 :00 a.m., Brian Mehler, a Met Ed Shift 
Supervisor, arrived in the control room. He noticed 
that the pressurizer was full, or "solid," but that 
system pressure had decreased, and concluded that 
"at that point we had steam in the hotlegs." (165) 

Mehler also noticed that the temperature in the 
discharge line connecting the PORV and the re- 
actor coolant drain tank was 229F, an abnor- 
mally high reading. (166) This temperature was 
a crucial indicator that the PORV was stuck open. 

The PORV had been leaking since October 1978, 
and the control room personnel had become accus- 
tomed to abnormally high temperatures during 
normal operations. Further, they knew the PORV 
had lifted in the early stages of the accident. 
Therefore, they did not conclude that the higher 
temperatures were indicating a stuck-open 
PORV. 62 (167) Although, in accordance with the 
emergency procedure for PORV failure, the oper- 
ators had requested temperatures for the PORV 
and code safety valve discharge lines from the 
control room computer twice before, they had dis- 
counted the abnormally high temperatures. 63 (168) 

The emergency procedure requires that the block 
valve be closed if temperatures exceed 200 F. 
(169) The utility personnel failed to do so, even 

" At 1.600 F, the Zircaloy cladding of the fuel rods will react chemically with steam to produce hydrogen in an 
oxidation process called a "zirc-water" or "zirconium-water reaction." (157) 

M See p. 107. 

" See pp. 117, 124-126. 

" For the first three hours, Wilkerson was one of three engineers in the control room. This may have been significant, 
since engineers have different training, are qualified to perform different types of work, and might have provided a 
different perspective on the problem, all of which could have assisted the control room personnel in diagnosing the 

81 A review of plant data following a reactor trip. 

62 There is evidence that one operator used an incorrect method for diagnosing the failed PORV, using discharge 
line temperatures. See Addendum 14. pp. 156-157. 

63 A post-accident analysis revealed that the readings were requested at 4 :24 a.m., 24 minutes into the accident 
(the PORV was 285 F, the code safety valves were 275 F and 263 F) ; at 5 :20 a.m., 1 hour and 20 minutes into it (the 
PORV was 283 F, the code safety valves were 211 F and 218 F) ; and at 6:17 a.m., 2 hours, 17 minutes into it (the 
PORV was 229 F) . See Addendum 13, p. 156, for further details. 


though the readings they requested in the first 
minutes of the accident were over that figure.' 4 

At 6:22 a.m.. some two hours and twenty-two 
minutes into the accident, and about a half hour 
after he had arrived in the control room. Mehler 
concluded the PORT was stuck open. 65 He recalled 

. . . what I saw was the pressurizer being 
solid and no pressure in the system, pres- 
sure going down. IT would indicate to me 
at that particular time that either the 
[pressurizer] heaters were not function- 
ing or that we had a leak . . . And I asked 
... if they checked if the heaters were on 
. . . [and] I pushed out the temperature 
for the electromatic [PORV] and codes 
[safety valve?], and from that point. I 
-umed that the electromatic was par- 
tially opened because of the temper- 
ature. . . . (174) 

Mehler directed Scheimann to close the block 
valve to isolate the stuck-open PORV. 

Bryan's recollection of the overall situation in 
the control room at that time was : 

... we were kind of just . . . sit [ting] 
back and started scratching [our] heads, 
you know, trying to put this together. 
That is about where we were at. (175) 

Some control room personnel have made state- 
ments indicating that at the time Mehler made 
his diagnosis, they did not appreciate the reason- 
ing for it. UTPii Scheimann later characterized 
Mehler'* decision as "pretty much as [a] last 
resort. . . ." (177) In Frederick's opinion : 

As far as I know the action to close the 
valve was . . . somewhat out of despera- 
tion. In other words, there seemed to be no 
other possible cause ... It [was] a last 
ditch effort. (178) 

Before the block valve was closed at 6 :22. some 
> gallons of coolant more than a third of the 
volume of the primary system had flowed out. 
Damage already had been done to the fuel and 
would continue to occur for at least another 
hour. (179) 

At the time the block valve was closed, the con- 
trol room personnel took no immediate action to 
replace the coolant that had been lost. (180) sug- 

ting that they did not recognize that the plant 
had experienced a loss-of-coolant accident. 

Shortly after 6 a.m., Kunder at the plant and 
three people offsite who would later play a major 
role in responding to the accident Gary Miller, 
the TMI Station Manager: Lee Rogers, the B&W 
Site Manager: and John Herbein, Met Ed's Vice 
President for Generation began a 35-minute con- 
ference call. Herbein was the first utility corporate 
executive contacted. He later contributed to the 
successful eifort to stabilize the reactor late in the 
afternoon. 66 

The four men discussed conditions at the plant. 
At one point in the conference call. Rogers asked 
whether the block valve had been closed. Someone 
was sent to find out and soon returned to say it was 
shut. However, no one asked how recentlv it had 
been closed. (181) 

In fact, it had just been closed, a piece of in- 
formation critical to anyone trying to determine 
what conditions in the reactor vessel might be. 


The closing of the block valve brought the first 
phase of the accident to an end. but there would 
be further problems. The control room personnel, 
in failing to diagnose the struck-open valve, had 
responded to symptoms of the accident in ways 
that aggravated the loss of coolant, resulting in 
severe damage to the core. At this point, however, 
none of them realized the core was uncovered. 

The key stumbling block in the early attempts 
to diagnose the accident emerged within the first 
few minutes: the conflicting symptons of high 
water level in the pressurizer and low pressure in 
the primary system. The operators opted to ad- 
dress the former, in effect rejecting the possibility 
of a LOCA. 

In part, this choice was a result of their train- 
ing. Operators were taught to avoid collapsing the 
steam bubble in the pressurizer. 67 Thus they 
slowed the flow of the high pressure injection to 
prevent the pressurizer from filling. They did so 
at a time when, unknown to them, there was a 
need to replenish the coolant being lost so that the 
core would not become uncovered. 

Their training had not adequately prepared the 
cor.trol room personnel to deal with such problems 
as multiple failures,* 8 plant behavior when 

** The utility has been faulted for failing to follow correct procedures with respect to the prior PORV leakage. 
TMI-2 Emergency Procedure #2202-1.5 ("Pressnrizer System Failure") contained sections on PORV and code safety 
valve leakage. Orators were to respond to suspected PORV leakage by closing the block valve (170) and to suspected 
code safety valve leakage by recording their discharge line temperatures on an analog trend recorder. (171) Prior to 
March 2*. the utility neither used the recorder nor closed the block valve. It also did not repair the valve. (172) As noted 
earlier, the XRC fined Met Ed .<l."o.OOO for these and other violations. (173) See "Recovery at Three Mile Island." 
p. 210-211. 

" See Addendum 15. p. 157. 

" See p. 151. 

57 See p. 96 and "Prior to the Accident." p. 74. 

* See fn. 8, p. 94, and "Prior to the Accident." p. To. 


natural circulation is used to cool the core, 69 
and the absence of indicators of actual plant condi- 
tions because of instruments going offscale. 70 

Further, control room personnel did not con- 
sider some of the symptoms to be typical of a 
LOG A, again based on their training but also on 
the emergency procedures, which they found to be 
unclear, vague and incomplete. 71 Because they 
neither heard nor observed a key indicator of a 
LOCA, the HP-R-227 radiation monitor alarm, 
which they mistakenly believed to be a necessary 
indicator, they rejected the possibility of a LOCA. 
Further, their training and the procedures led 
them to believe all the symptoms would occur 
within seconds of each other. During the accident, 
the sequence was not as expected, and control 
room personnel did not become aware of the symp- 
toms as they occurred. They also failed to identify 
the trends and relationships among the symptoms 
that were indicative of a LOCA. 

There were other problems : equipment malfunc- 
tions; a lack of certain key indicators, such as 

water level in the core ; poor layout of instruments 
in the control room, particularly those relating to 
the reactor coolant drain tank; too many alarms 
coming on at once ; and a one-and-a-half hour back- 
log on the computer. 72 Nor were the emergency 
procedures helpful. They did not provide guid- 
ance for decisionmaking in unforeseen circum- 

Some of the problems can be traced to manage- 
ment. The utility knew that one or more of the re- 
lief valves on the pressurizer had been leaking for 
six months. In such cases, the NEC requires that, 
the utility either close the block valve or install 
an analog trend recorder. 73 The utility took neither 
step, nor did it identify or repair the leaking 

Operator errors must be seen in the context of 
these significant problems. Yet one person did di- 
agnose the stuck-open POKV shortly after his 
arrival in the control room. He did not, however, 
initiate actions to replenish the lost coolant. 


During the conference call at 6:00 a.m., a 
decision was made to try to restart the reactor 
coolant pumps. Between this time and the at- 
tempt to restart them at 6 :54, the severity of 
the accident was to become clearer. For exam- 
ple, about 6:30 a radiation technician began 
surveying the auxiliary building. He found that 
radioactivity was increasing rapidly. In the con- 
trol room, radiation monitors for the contain- 
ment and auxiliary buildings were showing the 
same tiling. Alarms indicating high radiation 
levels sounded in areas of the plant periodically. 

Unknown to those at Unit 2, the core was 
uncovered. Calculations made subsequent to the 
accident show that temperatures in parts of it 
may have reached 4,350-4,500 F, and possibly 
higher. (183) 

At approximately 6 :40 a.m., Dubiel phoned 
Kunder, who was in the control room, to report 
that two follow-up boron samples were showing 
even lower boron concentrations 74 than the first 
sample taken at 5:15 a.m. (184) 

While Kunder was on the phone, radiation 

alarms began coming in from all over the plant. 
Kunder turned to Joseph Logan, Unit 2 Super- 
intendent for Operations, and announced, in 
very strong language, that they were "failing 
fuel." 75 (185) 

At 6:45 Zewe and Kunder declared a site 
emergency, 70 as required by TMI's emergency 
plan in the event of a possible "uncontrolled 
release of radioactivity to the immediate en- 
vironment."" (186) 


Ron Warren, a Met Ed engineer, arrived 
in the control room shortly after the site emer- 
gency was declared. Kunder directed that he 
and Richard Bensel, another Met Ed engineer, 
notify offsite agencies of the problems at the 
plant, again in accordance with Met Ed's emer- 
gency plan. Among those contacted were the 
Dauphin County Civil Defense Agency, the 
State Bureau of Radiological Protection and 
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region I 
office. (187) 

" See p. 106. 
70 See p. 106. 
" See p. 102. 
" See pp. 94, 96, 99-100. 

73 A device that records temperatures over time. 

74 See pp. 104-105. 

75 Fuel failure means that the Zircaloy cladding of the fuel rods had been breached, allowing radioactive fission 
products to enter the coolant. See p. 108. 

76 See "Prior to the Accident," p. 79. 

77 There probably had been no offsite release at this time. See p. 112. 


According to Warren, he told those contacted 
. . . that we had had a site emergency 
and that we had possible fuel damage, 
which is what George [Kunder] had 
told me [and it] was about the only in- 
formation he had related on to me, and 
we thought we had a primary to sec- 
ondary leak. (188) 

Warren, when questioned by Special Investi- 
gation staff as to exactly what he said, reit- 
erated that he talked only of possible fuel 
failure : 

Question: Were those words used, 
"The core may have been uncovered." 
anything like that ? 

WAPJIEX : Xo. those weren't. The only 
words used were that we had possible 
fuel [failure]. When we made the tele- 
phone calls, we really didn't have that 
much information. (189) 

Warren stated that he had difficulty getting 
additional information : 

. . . Every time we tried to corner 
George [Kunder] to get more informa- 
tion, he was off somewhere else talking 
to other people. (190) . 


At 6 :-"4 the control room personnel tried to re- 
start (or "bump") the reactor coolant pumps. At 
7:15 they gave up. Although the pumps started, 
they would not run properly, since they were still 
pumping mainly steam, rather than water. (191) 
The inability to keep them going led to increased 
recognition that there was steam in the primary 
system. As Kunder told the Special Investigation 

... I guess it was within mavbe the next 
15 minutes, half an hour, when I. along 
with everybody else, recognized that we 
had significant steam void [ing] inside 
the reactor coolant system. [The reactor 
coolant pumps] did not produce any 
flow ... it's apparent that it [the pumps] 
was just spinning in a steam environ- 
ment. (192) 

During the attempt to restart the pumps, an- 
other confusing set of indicators became apparent. 
There was a sharp decrease in neutron activity in 
the core and, at the same time, there appeared to be 

a sharp decrease in the boron concentration in the 
coolant. (193) Ordinarily, neutron activity would 
increase as the amount of boron, a substance that 
absorbs neutrons, decreases. 78 

Kunder, recalling the drop in boron concentra- 
tion from the 1,000 parts per million (ppm) meas- 
ured before the accident to the 400 ppm at this 
time, described his confusion during this period : 

That really alarmed me . . . I was grasp- 
ing at straws trying to assess what was 
happening. So, initially, there I was feel- 
ing we had a possible de-boration [ 79 ] of 
the coolant system, and then we had the 
400 ppm sample come in. I said. "Oh. my 
goodness, it's still going." When we 
bumped the reactor coolant pump, appar- 
ently we let enough water into the core 
[that the] intermediate range [neutron] 
indications went down and source range 
[neutron] indication went down, and I 
said, "Ah ha. it's turned around." As 
things evolved, it became apparent that 
the indications were very confusing and 
very misleading. 80 (195) 


Around 7:15 Wilkerson turned to the issue of 
recriticality that Kunder had raised with him just 
before 6 KX) a.m. He and two newly arrived engi- 
neers. Mike Benson and Howard Crawford, walked 
around the control room checking the instrumenta- 
tion panels and calling up information from the 
computer. (196) 

Benson described what he found to Special In- 
vestigation staff. The hotleg temperature was off- 
scale high, while the coldleg temperature was 
abnormally low. (197) Pressure in the primary 
system was down, and there was no flow because 
the reactor coolant pumps had been turned off. 
One set of neutron indicators outside the core sug- 
gested normal levels of activity, but the computer 
was providing high readings for another set in- 
side the core. Normally, at the reduced power level 
of the plant, the computer would not provide any 
readings. 81 

In an attempt to resolve these contradictory 
readings of neutron activity. Benson checked a 
backup set of neutron detectors that also took 
readings from directly inside the core. The back- 
up detector strip chart printed out data that also 
showed high neutron activity. Benson concluded 

71 The decrease in neutron activity was signalled by the neutron monitors. One explanation for the decrease is that 
the core, which initially had been partially voided, was refilled to a certain extent when the pumps -were started. While 
the core was partially voided, the neutrons had been able to escape the reactor vessel. When the core was refilled, they 
were trapped, leading to a decreased signal. The converse may also be true : when the core was gradually becoming un- 
covered, the neutron level rose proportionately as more neutrons escaped. (194) 

Decrease in the concentration of boron in the coolant. 

" See Addendum 16, p. 157, for Tx>gan's reaction to the behavior of the source and intermediate range monitor*. 

n See Addendum 17, p. 157, for Benson's description of what was happening. 


that the incore detectors had been made inoper- 
able by excessive heat and that that had resulted 
from a steam void in the core : 

When I looked at the back-ups it indi- 
cated to me how [the incore neutron de- 
tectors] had slowed going back [down]. 
They had already gone through the void 
and they had [seen] the worst case. They 
couldn't recover. There is a temperature 
limit [for the incore detectors] ... I 
just assumed when the void went through 
that it wiped them out. 82 (199) 


Meanwhile, Crawford had, as required by Met 
Ed's emergency plan, calculated a projected radi- 
ation dose rate for Goldsboro, Pa., located directly 
across the Susrniehanna Eiver. Using the proce- 
dure prescribed in the plan for projecting doses, 
Crawford made an extremely conservative pro- 
jection, hypothesizing a high rate of radiation 
leakage from the containment (0.2 percent of the 
atmosphere in the containment per day) and ab- 
normally high pressure in the containment (55 
psi). (200) The rate came out at 10 rad per hour 
(10 R/hr), 83 twice the level at which protective 
action is mandated according to the EPA Man- 
ual's Protective Action Guides. Had that been the 
actual release rate, it would have necessitated pro- 
tective action for Goldsboro and probably other 
areas downwind of the plant. 

At around this time, radiation monitoring teams 

were sent to the site's perimeter and to Goldsboro 
to monitor actual offsite dose rates, again in ac- 
cordance with the utility's emergency plan. (201) 
The releases, according to onsite measurements, 
were small. P'urthermore, containment pressure 
had not been greater than ? psi. (202) 


Gary Miller arrived in the control room around 
7 a.m. As specified in the emergency plan, lie 
assumed the role of emergency director and over 
the next hour set up an emergency command team 
to carry out TMI's emergency plan and to handle 
the accident. (203) 

Mike Ross, Unit 1 Supervisor of Operations, 
was put in charge of plant operations, with Zewe 
reporting to him. Dubiel was assigned the task of 
radiation protection and monitoring. Logan was 
to make sure that emergency plans were available 
and being followed. Kunder was assigiied to super- 
vise technical support and communications. Lee 
Rogers. Babcock & Wilcox's Manager of Site Op- 
erations, 84 who had also just arrived, was asked 
to serve as the liaison with R&W and to provide 
technical assistance. James Seelinger, Unit 1 Su- 
perintendent, who would arrive later, was to head 
the Emergency Control Station, which, after 10 
a.m., was located in the TMI-1 control room. (204) 
In addition to the members designated by Miller, 
others such as Zewe and one or more of the NRC 
inspectors who arrived later that morning partici- 
pated in the team's meetings from time to time. 


While taking over as emergency director and 
assembling the emergency command team. Miller 
also focused on radiation monitoring. (205) Radi- 
ation levels inside the, plant were continuing to 
increase, and a potential for releases to the at- 
mosphere existed. 

At 7 :24, based on the radiation levels in the 
containment measured by the containment dome 
monitor. Miller declared a general emergency. 85 

By approximately 7:30 a.m., control room per- 
sonnel were increasing the amount of coolant being 
supplied to the core. That action was producing 

little additional flow. It was being inhibited by 
the superheated steam and hydrogen gas trapped 
in the hotlegs, which continued to prevent estab- 
lishment of natural circulation. The trapped steam 
and gas sustained the big temperature differentia! 
between the hotlegs and the coldlegs. (207) More- 
over, the reactor coolant pumps could not be 
turned on because of the blocked pipes. Primary 
system pressure, which stood at about 1.500 psi. 
down from the 2,100 psi registered at around 7. 
was being kept at that level by periodic venting 
through the block valve into the containment. 
(208) Damage to the core was already severe. 
unknown to those at the plant. 

82 The extent to which the incore detectors were knocked out (Indus' the early hours of the accident may not be 
known until the core is removed. Another device the movable incore detector could have been used to determine the 
operability of the fixed neutron detectors and as an indicator of the extent of uncovering. Xo one thought to nse it un- 
til three days into the accident, partly because utility personnel considered it to be property of the reactor- vendor and 
partly because of its status as "experimental.'' (10S) 

" See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring." p. 44. 

M Kabcock & Wilcox had provided the reactor. It is common for a reactor-vendor to assign a representative to a 
plant using its reactor. 

95 See "Prior to the Accident." p. 79. 



Sometime between 7:30 and 8 a.m., Miller de- 
cided to use the incore thermocouples se for more 
accurate temperature readings. (209) He said he 
needed them in part to judge how effectively exist- 
ing plant systems were removing heat from the 
core, given that the operators had been unable to 
establish natural circulation : (210) 

. . . The context of what I was looking 
for was a temperature indication that 
would have some accuracy or be on a scale 
of the instrument that I was reading ... I 
was looking for a temperature on the hot 
end to help evaluate neat removal from 
an action standpoint. (211) 

About 7:30, Miller asked his senior instrumen- 
tation engineer. Ivan Porter, to get readings for 
the incore thermocouples from the computer. (212) 

The computer printed out nothing but question 
marks. This meant either that the temperatures 
in the core were greater than 700 F (the top of 
the scale) or that the monitoring and readout 
equipment was malfunctioning. (213) In fact, the 
temperatures were greater than 700 F. There was 
no other means in place for getting actual incore 
temperature readings from the control room equip- 
ment. (214) 

The resistance temperature detector that meas- 
ures hotleg temperatures also was registering off- 
scale. It only told Miller that temperatures were 
equal to or greater than 620 F. (215) 

Eventually either Miller directed or Porter vol- 
unteered to find another method of obtaining ac- 
curate incore temperatures. Between 8 and 9 a.m. 
Porter. Bill Yeager and Thomas Wright, two 
instrumentation technicians, and Douglas Weaver. 
an instrumentation foreman, went down to the 
cable room. They were going to try to tap directly 
into the wiring leading to the computer with a 
device called a thermocouple reader. 87 (216) Por- 
ter returned to the control room while the instru- 
ment technicians tapped into the wiring. 88 

Soon they were joined by another instrumenta- 

tion technician, Bob Gilbert, and another instru- 
mentation foreman, Skip Bennett. Weaver and 
Wright left to install yet another measuring 
device. Known as a "resistance bridge," it was to 
be connected to the hotleg temperature detector 
in order to extend the range of hotleg temperatures 
that could be read from the control room. (222) 


When Porter returned to the cable room, the 
others had finished hooking up the thermocouple 
reader. They got five initial readings (the device 
could accommodate five thermocouples at a time). 
These ranged from 200 to over 2,000 F. (223) . 

When Yeager saw the 2,000 F reading, he said 
he concluded the core was uncovered. (224) He 
told NRC investigators that he made that state- 
ment to those present. (225) Bennett concluded 
that the core had been uncovered, but no longer 
was. (226) 

Wright and Gilbert, on the other hand, stated 
that they did not think the core had ever been 
uncovered. (227) Wright thought the thermo- 
couples had been damaged. 89 (229) Gilbert, along 
with Porter, believed the readings simply meant 
the thermocouples were not functioning properly. 

According to Porter, someone in the cable room 
suggested they take additional thermocouple read- 
ings by means of another instrument, a digital 
voltmeter. (231) It provides a direct reading of 
the voltage being produced by the thermocouples. 
With the aid of a conversion chart, these readings 
can be translated into temperatures. Porter, be- 
lieving the thermocouples had been destroyed, told 
the others he did not think it would be worthwhile 
to use the voltmeter. (232) 

The others did so anyway. Between 8 and 9 a.m., 
they took all 52 incore thermocouple readings with 
the meter. (233) 


Just prior to 8 :15 a.m.. Porter had a brief con- 
versation with Miller about the incore thermo- 
couple readings. Miller told the Special Investi- 

K Temperature measuring devices located in the reactor vessel a few inches above the core. 

"' The incore thermocouples transmit their information to the computer through wiring in cables going from the 
containment to the cable room, one floor below the control room. 

M Recollections of who went down to the cable room with whom and when vary slightly. Wright recalled that 
initially lie and Yeager went down to the cable room alone and were later joined by Porter and perhaps Bennett. He 
recalled Gilbert having l>een involved originally in providing the thermocouple reader, but did not recall his presence 
in the cable room. (217) Yeager also recalled going to the cable room to install the thermocouple reader with Wright, 
having been directed to do so by Weaver. Subsequently, according to Yeager, Bennett. Gilbert and Porter arrived. (218) 
Gilbert recalled going down with Bennett and finding Porter and two technicians taking readings. According to Gilbert, 
by the time he and Bennett arrived, the readings taken off the thermocouple reader had already been acquired and the 
digital voltmeter had been set up. (219) Weaver said he went down with Porter and had taken two or three readings 
before Bennett and Gilbert arrived. (220) Xo one else recalled Weaver's presence in the cable room. Porter stated that 
he went down with Bennett. Wright and Yeager. went back to the control room while the thermocouple reader was being 
hooked up. then returned to the cable room and learned of the five readings. (221) 

89 He said he thought the thermocouples had formed junctions with neighboring ones and that those reading over 
2.000 were reading twice the actual temperatures in the core. He knew that temperatures of 1,000, while high, were not 
high enough to indicate core uncovering and damage. (228) 


gation staff that at the time, he was focusing on 
Crawford's high projected offsite dose rate and 
was waiting for a report from the offsite monitor- 
ing team at Goldsboro. (234) 

His conversation with Porter was brief. Accord- 
ing to Miller, Porter gave Miller the five readings 
taken off the thermocouple reader but said he did 
not believe the thermocouples were reliable. (235) 
Porter said that because he did not see any value 
in the use of the digital voltmeter, he did not wait 
for a full set of readings. 90 (239) Nor did Porter 
tell Miller that two of his instrumentation staff 
had concluded the core was then or had been un- 
covered. However, Porter said he did not recall 
having heard them make those statements. (240) 


Sometime between 8 and 9 a.m.. Porter, Weaver 
and Wright finishing hooking up the resistance 
bridge in the control room to the hotleg tempera- 
ture detector. They then obtained actual hotleg 
temperatures, which ranged between 680 and 720 
in one hotleg and between 7(50 and 790 in the 
other. (241) Although these temperatures indi- 
cated superheated conditions in the hotlegs and 
therefore uncovering of the core, the control room 
personnel did not interpret them that way. (242) 

It is unclear precisely when Miller and other 
control room personnel received the hotleg tem- 
peratures critical indicators of the condition of 
the core. For example, the Special Investigation 
found no record that established whether the 
temperatures were available to Miller at 8:15 
when, having established the utility's emergency 
management structure, he assembled his key ad- 
visors for the first of a number of "think tank" 
meetings, a caucus approach to managing the ac- 
cident that was characteristic of much of the first 
day. Until interviewed by Special Investigation 
staff on September 28, 1979, Miller said that he 
was not even aware that the two devices had been 
used to acquire thermocouple readings. (243) 


The meetings of the emergency command team 
took place in the shift supervisor's office at the 
rear of the control room. The first occurred at 

8:15 a.m., four hours after the reactor had 
tripped, three hours after Kunder informed 
Miller that he was concerned that he did not 
know what was going on in the plant, two and a 
half hours after the core was first uncovered, and 
nearly an hour and a half after the declaration 
of a site emergency. 

At this early caucus, the management team 
established three general goals for handling the 
emergency and bringing the plant to a safe and 
stable condition: (244) 

Protect the public 

Keep the core covered 

Protect Met Ed plant and personnel. 


In hindsight, the issue of greatest significance 
at the meeting was high pressure injection, since 
it was the only means of cooling the core. Earlier 
in the day the operators had been confused by the 
conflicting signals of high water level in the pres- 
surizer and low primary system pressure. Re- 
sponding to the former, they had turned off one 
of the HPI pumps and throttled the second. 91 

Early in the meeting of the emergency com- 
mand team, someone in the group, without Miller's 
knowledge, had decided to turn off the remaining 
high pressure injection pump. As a result, foi 
about five minutes there was no flow of coolant to 
the core. (245) Subsequently in the meeting. Mil- 
ler made a crucial decision: HPI should not be 
turned off completely from that point forward. 92 

Two weeks later Miller was to attribute his deci- 
sion to uncertainty: '"Based on the instruments we 
had we didn't know whether the core was covered.'' 
(24(5) However, in interviews he has made ambig- 
uous statements about when he first realized the 
possibility that the core was uncovered. 1 '" 

Two weeks after the accident, control room per- 
sonnel were not sure how the decision to stop HPI 
came about and whether, in fact, HPI had been 
completely turned off : 94 

SEELIXGEE: There was a period. 
though, after one of the caucuses, we 
were in the middle of a caucus, and we 
sent somebody out to secure the makeup 

00 Bennett had transferred all 52 incore thermocouple readings to a computer sheet sometime between 9 a.m.. 
when the last measurement was taken, and 10 a.m.. when nonessential personnel were evacuated from the T'nit :> 
control room. Wright said he saw the computer sheet in the instrument shop when he left the cable room. (236) Bennett 
said he returned the conversion tables to the console in the control room, during whicli time be spoke to Porter and in- 
formed him there were "several thermocouples that were extremely hot, in the neighborhood of 2.000 degrees.'' (237) 
The computer sheet was not discovered until several weeks after the accident, when Bennett returned from vacation. 

111 See pp. 96-08. 

x For most of the day, HPI remained the most effective and, to a large extent, the only means of cooling the core. 

M See pp. 124-129, for his other statements. 

'* Plant data indicate that it was stopped at this time. (247) 


pumps. 95 And we talked and they se- 
cured the makeup pumps. We talked for 
about two more minutes and Gary [Mil- 
ler] came to the conclusion, we just de- 
cided and I think it was through his im- 
petus, that's the wrong thing to do. We 
didn't totally understand it ... 

ROGERS : Right. I do remember that. 

SEELIXGER: . . . Let's go start the 
makeup pumps again. That [sticks] in 
my mind. 

MILLER : In the room there I said [not 
to] secure [expletive deleted] HPI. 

ZEWE: We didn't secure the makeup 
pumps we just secured HPI ... 

* * * 

a : Make sure that goes on the tape, 
we never stopped the makeup pumps. 

SEELIXGER : We never did stop the 
makeup pumps? 

Xever stopped the makeup 


ROGERS : Xo. that's true. 

SEKLIXGER: We sent somebody out of 
the room with that intention and then we 
changed our mind within a very short 
period of time. 

5 : Yeah, never did that, never did 

MILLER: Yeah. I was strongly in 
(lisa . . . not in favor of stopping the . . . (249) 

Special Investigation staff later questioned Mil- 
lei about his recollection of what had transpired at 
:!." meeting. 

Question : Can I ask who the individ- 
ual was who was sent out of the room to do 
it [sec-uiv HPI] and how the information 
was jrott en to him or whomever not to do 

MILI.KI;: My memory is that the shift 
su]x>r\ isor. Rill Zewe. and Mike Ro--. 
weiv l>oth in the room when that direc- 
tion was given. The man would have been 
Rill Zewe who was in charge of the opera- 
tion from the standpoint of the senior 
watch supervisor. 

Question: How was the information 
gotten to him after he left the room that 
he should not secure those pumps ? 

MILLER : Mike Ross, who was in charge 
of operations. 

Question : And it was Ross who said 
in the transcript. "Xever stopped the 
makeup pumps." '. 

MILLER : Yes, 

Question : And then Seelinger says. 
"Yes. we sent somebody out. but then we 
changed our minds?" So that would be 
what actually happened. Zewe went out 
with the instruction to do it [secure 
HPI], and then you changed your minds 
and Ross was sent out to inform Zewe not 
to do it. or to himself take the action nec- 
essary to make sure that those pumps 
were not secured. 

* * * 

. . . [M]aybe you can explain what 
you do recall with respect to people com- 
ing and going and what may have oc- 
curred during that first caucus. 

MILLER : During that caucus, the com- 
mand group, as I have called it, were 
making reports to me of activities in their 
respective areas of responsibility. I be- 
lieve during the caucus the shift super- 
visor. Bill Zewe, came into the room and 
talked to one of the members of the group 
and not to me and then he exited the room 
and subsequent to that I was informed 
that high pressure injection was going to 
be secured, and at that point I directed 
Mike Ross to go inform and direct Bill 
Zewe that high pressure injection pumps 
were to be turned on and left on and 
only turned off with my pei-sonal permis- 
sion. (250) 


Miller said his decision was based on the possi- 
bility that the core was uncovered. (251) In the 
same timeframe. others also had concluded that it 
probably had been uncovered. 

"The make-up pumi>s are actually the same as the HPI pumps, lu industry iirlance, make-ui> refers to a manually 

rolled fl'iw rate, high pressure injection to the automatically delivered flow rate, which at TMI-2 was -~00 gallons 
l>er minute per pump. "Securing HPI" means bypassing the automatic injection rate and operating the pumjis manually 
at a lower (make-up) rate. 

Tho mm ml room operators' actions make clear that they interpreted the direction "not to secure HIT' differently. 
They neither increased the flow rate to the full-flow rate at which HPI comes on automatically, nor did they leave the 
full-flow rate on when the high pressure injection system actuated at various points later in the accident. Prior to the 
directive "not to secure HPI" having lieen issued, the operators had lieeu using one pump to provide coolant to the pri- 
mary system. After the directive, the operators liegan using two pumps in a consistent fashion for the first time since 
tlie accident began. 

Their actions lead to the conclusion that they interpreted the directive "not to secure HPI" in terms of a distinction 
lietween one pump ("make-up") and two pump ("HPI") operation. (248) 


John Flint, 96 a Babcock & Wilcox engineer who 
had arrived in the control room around 9 a.m., 
(252) and Bennett and Yeager, the two instrumen- 
tation technicians who had been in the cable room, 
indicated that they believed independently, and 
with varying degrees of certainty, that the core 
had been uncovered. (253) In fact, as noted be- 
fore, Yeager said he believed the core was then 
uncovered. 97 Flint told staff of this and other in- 
vestigations that he told Lee Rogers, his manager, 
of his conclusion shortly before 10 a.m. that 
morning : 

Question : Did you have any conversa- 
tion about core damage with Lee Rogers ? 

FLINT : Yes, I did. 

Question : Was he in general agreement 
with you ? 

FLINT: We didn't discuss it in any 
depth. I mentioned that we had core dam- 
age, possible uncoverage of the core. At 
that time, he was on his way to go into 
a meeting in the shift supervisor's office. 
We didn't discuss it further. (254) 

Rogers was vague when questioned by the Spe- 
cial Investigation staff on this point : 

. . . [Flint] indicates that he mentioned to 
me that he was sure we had uncovered the 
core. And I did not recall that he ever 
said that to me ; again, not thinking that 
that was information that was going to 
help me get the plant back to a stable 
condition. I must reinforce that, because 
he may very well have said it to me and 
may have been very strong in his saying 
it to me, but I did not recall that shortly 
after [the accident], and I did not recall 
quite a few months after. . . . (255) 

According to Kunder, several others in the con- 
trol room had surmised that the core had been 
uncovered as early as 6:54 a.m., when the unsuc- 
cessful attempt was made to restart the reactor 
coolant pumps : 

. . . We were concerned at that point that 
we might be uncovering the core ... I 
was concerned . . . that with the vapor 
lock [the trapped steam] I just wasn't 
sure in my own mind that all the flow was 
going in through the core ... So I think 
we were concerned for some indefinite 
time, which may have been an hour or 
two, that the core was indeed uncovered. 


Not everyone recognized the core was or had 
been uncovered. One possible reason was the ex- 
tent to which control room personnel doubted the 
reliability of the incore thermocouples, which were 
the only direct indicators of temperatures in the 
core. At least four of Miller's six advisors Ross, 
Logan, Kunder and Rogers were aware that 
Porter had advised Miller that the incore thermo- 
couples should not be considered reliable. Logan 

. . . He [Porter] had some [incore ther- 
mocouple readings] that were high, some 
low, and they didn't make any sense. 

Kunder concurred : 

. . . Based on the variation [in tempera- 
ture values] he [Porter] didn't feel . . . 
that the indications were reliable enough 
to base any judgment or action on. (258) 

Ross commented, 

. . . [He said] not to take anything con- 
crete off of them, that's what I deduced 
from the conversation I heard. (259) 

Rogers and Ross recalled actually overhearing 
the discussion between Miller and Porter as it oc- 
curred. (260) In an interview with Special In- 
vestigation staff, Rogers described how the in- 
formation was conveyed and how it was received : 

. . . [The readings were conveyed] with 
various given numbers relating to tem- 
perature ; as high as 2400, as I recall, and 
as low as a couple hundred degrees, with 
a lot of them not reading, not giving any 
indications at all, both with the individ- 
ual readout and with the computer read- 
out. And discussions, of course, being, 
"Well, can we believe them ? Do we know 
what they are telling us ? Are they really 
good for this kind of an indication?" 
That, again, when entered into some- 
body's thought process once you inter- 
ject into your thinking are you sure you 
can believe them, is there any knowl- 
edge or information you know that they 
will perform in the kind of conditions 
we have in the plant right now, you then 
start not believing that any of them are 
right. (261) 

Miller said he had accepted Porter's opinion 
that the incore thermocouple readings were un- 

96 Flint had been assigned by B&W to the plant in connection with Unit 2 start-up operations. 

97 See p. 113. 


reliable. (262) Further, shortly after the 8:15 
caucus with his senior advisors, he had gotten ac- 
curate hotleg temperature readings, which met his 
need for data to assess heat removal. He explained, 

... I accepted [Porter's] advice and did 
not go back and evaluate the specifics of 
why he had said that [the incore ther- 
mocouples were unreliable]. I accepted 
his advice and at the same time I had an 
indication of hot temperature that was 
on scale on an instrument that I felt I 
could depend on ... and a normally 
used instrument, as opposed to the in- 
core instrument, which is not recognized 
or was not recognized at that time in any 
[of our] procedures or training or test- 
ing. So I didn't go back and question his 
technical advice on that basis. (263) 

Subsequent to the accident, Ross said he con- 
cluded that the incore thermocouples probably 
were the most reliable indicator at the time of 
conditions in the core. (264) He explained why 
he thought they were discounted : 

. . . we have never trained our people [to 
use them] nor do we use them, nor do 
surveillance or readouts on those, saying, 
"Hey. this is what you ought to be look- 
ing at." We have iiever done that. I think 
that's probably why it was easy to dis- 
count them ... It was easy to discount 
them, also because in many units [they] 
are not even hooked up. In my unit 
[Three Mile Island Unit 1] that's not 
even connected, incore thermocouples. 


Some control room personnel said they were 
aware of conditions that clearly indicated the core 
was uncovered, but that they did not make that 
connection. For example. Miller, unlike Zewe and 
Rogers, said he was relying on the hotleg tempera- 
tures as an indirect measure of coolant tempera- 
tures in the core. (266) The hotleg temperatures 
that he said he had accepted as reliable were over 
700 F. Given primary system pressure, which 
Miller also had. those readings showed clearly the 
presence of superheat conditions. (267) Miller's 
subsequent actions in directing a futile attempt at 
collapsing the steam bv repressurizing the plant 
lead to the conclusion that he did not deduce that 
superheated conditions existed or view the hotleg 
temperatures as corroborative of the incore ther- 
mocouple readings at that time. 98 Similarly, en- 
gineers Benson and Crawford, who had been 

" See pp. 124-125. 
M See pp. 112-113. 

focusing on the issue of recriticality, said they did 
not equate significant steam voiding with uncover- 
ing of the core. (268) 

The evidence suggests another reason that some 
control room personnel did not recognize the core 
was uncovered : not everyone realized that there 
was steam in the system or steam in the hotlegs. 
According to Flint, as late as 9 a.m., Miller and 
some of his advisors, may not have been convinced 
there was steam in the hotlegs. Flint had discussed 
this condition with some members of the manage- 
ment team and did not believe at that time it was 
generally accepted there was steam in the hotlegs : 

Question: ... at that time, was the 
belief that there were bubbles in the legs 
shared by everybody else in addition to 
yourself and Ed Frederick? 


Question: And do you recall having 
any conversations with any non-believers 
regarding the existence of such bubbles in 
the legs* 

FLINT: Yes, I spoke with Lee Rogers, 
Gary Miller, George Kunder, Bill Zewe. 

Question : And all of those individuals 
did not think that there were bubbles in 
the legs . . . ? 

FLINT: . . . [Prior to this] I did not 
have the impression that they thought 
there were steam bubbles in the legs. (269) 

Kunder, however, said control room personnel 
had deduced earlier, when they had failed to get 
the reactor coolant pumps running, that they had 
steam in the system. (270) Flint had also had a 
discussion with Frederick shortly after arriving. 
Based on the hotleg temperatures, the neutron de- 
tector readings and other plant conditions, he said 
the two had decided there was steam in the hot- 
legs. (271) 


In this same general timeframe, Frederick and 
Zewe spoke to Flint about the earlier concern 
over jjossible recriticality. Flint said he concluded 
that there had been voiding in the core and that 
it had led to excessive leakage of neutrons from the 
core which, in turn, had caused the sharp rise and 
fall on the source and intermediate range neutron 
monitors." According to Flint : 

. . . [Ed Frederick, one of the control 
room operators] mentioned that they had 
earlier thought they had started to go 
critical again. So did Bill Zewe [the con- 
trol room shift supervisor] and one or two 


other people. When I looked at it, I told 
them that was not my opinion. I felt there 
had been a change in the [neutron] leak- 
age path from the core and that's what the 
detectors were seeing. (272) 

The source and intermediate range monitors and 
other indicators were not signaling recriticality, 
the main concern up to then, but simply a period 
of time when there had been less shielding of the 
monitors because of a steam void in the core. 100 
Benson had recognized this : 

. . . The problem had come up ... 
"Well, do you think you have [gone] 
critical again?" You know, they were 
throwing around boron numbers like 700 
ppm. I said, "That's ridiculous" ... I 
assumed the void going through [the core 
as] being the [cause] for the source range 
being erratic. I also assumed the void had 
messed up the incores . . . We shouldn't 
have been critical at 700 ppm with all the 
[control] rods in. (273) 

According to Benson and Crawford, Flint was 
present when the two of them were discussing the 
excess leakage of neutrons from the core. In fact, 
according to Crawford, it was Flint who led them 
to conclude that the probable cause was voiding 
in the core : 

... It wasn't until ... we talked to John 
Flint that we actually thought about void- 
ing in the core causing the excess neutron 
leakage . . . We were just kind of talking 
and he said, "Well, that could be one of 
the causes." We kind of agreed that that 
would be a good cause. (274) 

The Met Ed nuclear engineers Benson, Wilker- 
son and Crawford not only concluded there was 
voiding in the core, but also deduced the effect that 
condition was having on hot and coldleg tempera- 
tures. Benson said : 

. . . The hotleg was really hot and the cold 
[leg] was really cold, [and] that also 
tended to make me feel that somewhere up 
[in] the hotlegs . . . was the void. It had 
already gone through the core and it was 
somewhere up in the . . . hotlegs. Every- 
thing seemed to look like that. I went over 
[and] I talked it over with Scott [Wilk- 
erson] awhile and Howard [Crawford]. 
We both tended to agree that that's what 
had happened. (275) 

Neither Benson nor Crawford concluded the core 
had been uncovered. (276) 

In summary, by 9 :30 a.m. certain control room 
personnel had realized that the core had been un- 
covered and that superheated steam had been pro- 
duced. However, many others, including nuclear 
engineers and the head of the emergency team, 
still failed to recognize what was happening in 
the plant. Thus at around 7 :45, when the utility 
began communicating information on the accident 
and on plant conditions to the NRC and State 
officials, many did not know the extent of the 
damage to the core. 


When Miller announced the general emergency, 
Warren and Bensel went through the same notifi- 
cations as before, again according to Met Ed's 
emergency plan. 


Met Ed first called the NRC Region I office at 
7:10 a.m., but it was not until 7:45 a.m. that 
Region I learned of the difficulties at TMI. When 
Warren called, he had gotten only the answering 
service, with whom he left a message. When the 
Region I switchboard opened at 7 :45 a.m. and the 
operator called in routinely, she got a message 
from the service that a general emergency had 
been declared at TMI, there was a primary to 
secondary system leak in the "B" steam genera- 
tor, and there had been an offsite release of radio- 
activity. 101 The utility did not mention the 
stuck-open PORV. (277) 

The operator immediately called Eldon Brun- 
ner, Region I Branch Chief, in his office. As he had 
been told there had been an offsite release, he went 
to the office of George Smith, the Region's chief 
health physicist. (278) According to the Region 
I Plan, in the event of a radiological incident, 
Smith was the "appropriate branch chief" to 
take primary responsibility for initiating the Re- 
gion's radiological incident response program; 
Brunner was the designee for operational inci- 
dents. 102 (279) 

In fact, the TMI accident involved both classes 
of incidents. The plan did not specify who should 
take overall responsibility in such a case. But this 
did not lead to confusion, as Brunner and Smith 
shared the responsibility. (280). 

On his way to see Smith, Brunner stopped by 
the office of the Regional Director, Boyce Grier, 
and informed him of the general emergency. He 
also directed that arriving personnel report to 
Smith's office. (281) 

100 When steam replaces water in the core, there is less shielding of neutrons, causing greater penetration of the reac- 
tor vessel by the neutrons, which is picked up by the out-of-core neutron detectors. 

101 In fact, there was no evidence of a release by that time. See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," p. 44. 

103 Incidents involving the operation of a reactor, in contrast to safeguard accidents or a release of radioactivity 
without ongoing problems with the reactor itself. 


From that office, both men returned the call 
to the site and began recording information about 
the accident. (282) They took the information 
down on white notepads, rather than on the 
"incident notification information" forms pre- 
scribed by the Region's Plan. These forms speci- 
fied what information was to be obtained: "the 
cause of the incident,'' "the present status of the 
material, facility or operation" and "actions taken 
or proposed to be taken by the licensee." (283) 
This kind of information was later not readily 
ava liable to NRC headquarters. 

While B runner and Smith were recording the 
information, Donald Haverkamp and Richard 
Keimig. respectively the Region I Project Inspec- 
tor and Project Section Chief for TMI, arrived 
in Smith's office. Their arrival permitted Brunner 
to go back upstairs at approximately 8 a.m. to 
activate the Regional Incident Response Center. 

At some point the information Brunner had 
obtained earlier was transferred from the note 
pads to a blackboard, which served as the Center's 
status board. From then on, all information was 
put onto "Incident Messageforms," designed for 
use in the Response Center. (285) 

An open lino was set up with the TMI-2 con- 
trol room at 8:10, and Warren began transmit- 
ting information to the Region over it. (286) 


When Grier received the news from Brunner, 
he called XRC headquarters in Washington, D.C. 
and spoke with John Davis, Acting Director of 
the Office of Inspection and Enforcement (I&E) 
and a member of the NRC's Executive Manage- 
ment Team (EMT). Grier advised Davis of the 
general emergency and of the steps taken to set 
up the regional Response Center. Davis then ac- 
tivated the headquarters Incident Response Cen- 
ter, comprised of IRACT and the EMT. (287) 

At 8 :24. a direct line was established between 
IRACT and Region I. The region transmitted 
data from TMI to IRACT over this line. 

One of the earliest pieces of information to go 
| from Region I to XRC headquarters was the 
temperature in the primary system. At 8:25 a.m. 
Grier informed Xorman Moseley. IRACT Direc- 
tor, that primary system temperature was 571 F. 

This temperature was misleading, as it was 
an average of both the cold and hotlegs ("T ve "), 
rather than the significantly hotter temperature 
of the hotlegs ("T h ") the primary system tem- 

perature normally used to diagnose conditions in 
the core. (The hotleg temperature in the "A" 
loop was actually in the neighborhood of 
680 F, 103 which, as noted, was indicative of super- 
heated steam, given the pressure in the primary 
system.) (289) Headquarters had no way of 
knowing it was receiving an average reading. 


Beginning at 8:37 a.m., Davis tried to notify 
Chairman Joseph Hendrie and the other Com- 
missioners. Hendrie was at a hospital in the Wash- 
ington area where his daughter was having her 
wisdom teeth extracted and for this reason was 
out of the office all day. (290) He had infrequent 
contact with the Commission and generally was 
not directly involved in the agency's response dur- 
ing the first day. 10 * (292) 

Davis did not reach Commissioner Richard 
Kennedy until 8 :53 a.m. at his office ; Kennedy said 
that when Commissioner Victor Gilinsky arrived, 
he would give him the news. Gilinsky was Act- 
ing Chairman in Hendrie's absence. At 8 :57 a.m., 
Davis notified Commissioner John Ahearne, who 
decided to go to the Response Center in Bethesda. 
Shortly thereafter, Acting Chairman Gilinsky 
called the EMT. 105 (294) 

A Diagnosis of Core Uncovering 

When Davis spoke with Commissioner Ahearne, 
he told him that "a bubble was pulled into the 
vessel." (295) Davis had given that same informa- 
tion to Commissioner Kennedy a few- minutes ear- 
lier. Ahearne asked that Edson Case, the repre- 
sentative of the Office of Xuclear Reactor Regula- 
tion on the EMT, be called to the phone to explain 
what that meant. Case told him : 

What it seems to signify to me is that 
they lost enough coolant out of the pres- 
surizer, and generally throughout the 
system, that it apparently uncovered 
part of the core and popped [the 
cladding]. And I think probably the ac- 
tivity so far is due to popping the fuel 
elements. The real question is is that the 
entire problem and have they regained 
control over the primary system pressure 
and level with their safety injection sys- 
tem? (296) 

Case's deduction and the question he put to 
Ahearne were important. Not only did he diagnose 
uncovering of the core; he also raised the next 
step regaining control over the primary system 

03 The offscale high reading was 620 F ; actual temperatures were 680" F. 

101 Hendrie was aware of the accident as early as 10:05 a.m. when he spoke with Commissioner Gilinsky over the 
phone about it. (291) 

"The content of this conversation is unknown, as it was not present in its entirety in the IRACT/EMT tape 
transcripts. (293) 


by using the emergency water injection system. 

There was no discussion at this time of the need 
to consider evacuation or other protective action 
in light of the possible consequences of an un- 
covered core. 106 This is particularly relevant be- 
cause, prior to Three Mile Island, it was believed 
that prolonged uncovering of a nuclear core would 
lead inevitably to a core meltdown. As Chairman 
Hendrie testified in hearings before the Subcom- 
mittee : 

... I think I would have told you on the 
27th of March that if you had a core sub- 
stantially uncovered for some hours that 
I would have to assume that major dam- 
age, and probably some melting, was be- 
ginning to go on ; and I couldn't tell you 
with any confidence that it wouldn't con- 
tinue to go on. (298) 


Warren continued to serve as the link between 
the regional office and the plant : 

... As long as I was up in the Unit 2 
control room [until about 10 a.m. 107 ], 
most of the morning was spent on the 
phone with the NRC relaying messages 
back and forth with them. . . . (299) 

Assigned to the phone, Warren said he was never 
fully briefed. He was unaware of important dis- 
cussions that were occurring in the control room. 
Because he himself only suspected as much, he did 
not tell the NRC of the concern that the core was 
uncovered : 

Question : Were you aware on the 
morning of the 28th that the core had 
been uncovered at some point previously ? 

WARREN : No, I suspected that it 
had ... as soon as ... George [Kun- 
der], my boss, related that we had pos- 
sible fuel damage, I thought that there 
was a possibility that we may have un- 
covered the core. (300) 

Core uncovering was not the only information 
being mishandled. Misinformation about natural 
circulation would be transmitted throughout the 
day, starting at around 9 a.m. Even as Case was 
posing the question about regaining control over 
the primary system with the plant's safety 
injection system, Kunder was answering it in a 
simultaneous conversation he was having with the 
regional office. Kunder reported to Region I that 
there was a vapor lock in the hotlegs and that the 
plant was not getting proper flow. Moreover, he 

informed the NRC that utility management was 
concerned the core was not being cooled. (301) 

Within 10 minutes, this information was trans- 
mitted to IRACT. (302) However, 10 minutes 
later, the crux of Kunder's report that the util- 
ity was having problems establishing natural cir- 
culation was contradicted. Region I's George 
Smith reported to IRACT that natural circula- 
tion was being used to cool the primary system. 

Then, less than 15 minutes later, Smith's report 
was contradicted. Grier told Davis at the EMT 
that the reactor was not being cooled through nat- 
ural circulation and that the only mechanism for 
cooling the core was high pressure injection. He 
again informed headquarters that steam binding 
was preventing natural circulation. (304) 

Throughout the day, the transmittal of this sort 
of contradictory information characterized com- 
munications among the site, the Region and NRC 
headquarters. Communications at times became so 
confused that NRC headquarters was transmitting 
contradictory information simultaneously. For 
example, in one conversation at 1 p.m., IRACT 
reported that there "seems to be all kinds of 
bubbles in the thing; in one or two hotlegs and in 
the core itself," (305) while at the same time, on 
another phone, Victor Stello, NRR's IRACT rep- 
resentative, was telling an aide to Congressman 
Morris Udall that the reactor's primary system 
was "water solid." (306) 

There is evidence that the assumption that acci- 
dents would be of short duration also contributed 
to the communications problems. When the Re- 
sponse Center was activated, IRACT was able to 
open only one line of communications. (307) The 
need for both radiological and operational infor- 
mation quickly overburdened that single channel. 
Around 2 p.m. on the first day an unidentified 
speaker at IRACT would make the following ob- 
servation : 

This [accident] is interesting in the 
broad sense that generally we always con- 
sidered ... an event happening and 
then a release. And this was a strange one 
because we've got both going at the same 
time. And it did create a problem at one 
point . . . some people have said that the 
reactor people were asking questions and 
[the radiological] people were asking 
questions, and they all had to wait in line 
and there was some competition. Instead 
of having a field [communicator] who 
was [conversant in both], the field [com- 
municator] they had . . . was good, but 
he wasn't that conversant in health phys- 

106 See pp. 132-135. 

107 At that time, radiation levels in the control room forced non-essential personnel, including Warren, to evacuate the 
Unit 2 control room for Unit 1. 


ics stuff . . . there was a waiting in line 
kind of thing [that] ended up [occur- 
ring] , and he never thought about wheth- 
er they were both primary. 108 (308) 


At 7 :02 a.m. the utility had contacted Clarence 
Deller, the duty officer at the Pennsylvania Emer- 
gency Management Agency (PEMA), the desig- 
nated lead agency of the State for emergency re- 
sponse, to infornThim of the site emergency. Deller 
in turn called William Dornsife, duty officer that 
morning for the Bureau of Kadiological Protec- 
tion (BRP), PEMA's technical arm, at his home. 

Dornsife said he did not have the TMI phone 
number and had some difficulty contacting the 
Unit 2 control room. (310) Around 7:15 a.m. the 
shift supervisor got a message from Dornsife and 
returned his call. (311) 

Dornsife was the only nuclear engineer in the 
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Re- 
sources and therefore the only official in Pennsyl- 
vania's State emergency organization who was 
technically qualified to assess the status of the 
reactor. (312) When the plant finally contacted 
him, Dornsife went through a checklist of ques- 
tions contained in the BRP emergency response 
plan for the TMI site. It was designed to aid off- 
site officials in assessing severity. (313) According 
to Dornsife, he : 

. . . asked other questions like status of 
safeguards. Had the High Pressure In- 
jection operated as designed ? Had the re- 
actor tripped ? And they told me [yes] in 
all cases. (314) 


On the whole, Dornsife said he found it dif- 
ficult to pin down what type of accident had oc- 
curred because the utility was not sure what had 
happened. (315) This difficulty also would reoccur 
throughout the day. 

The answers Dornsife received pointed to a 
"Type 3" accident, as spelled out in the BRP site- 
specific plan for TMI. (316) This type of accident 
involved a release of radiation to the atmosphere 
! as a result of system failures and included "design 
i basis"' accidents, such as loss of coolant, and ab- 
1 normal transients such as steam line failures or 
i steam generator tube failures. (317) 

By the time Dornsife was notified, the TMI 
operators had already closed the block valve to 

isolate the PORV, although they had not recog- 
nized that the plant had experienced a loss of cool- 
ant accident. Dornsife did not receive any infor- 
mation indicating a "failure of the primary cool- 
ant pressure boundary," 109 a symptom of a "Type 
4" accident "major failure with failed safe- 
guards." (318) Nor did the plant conditions he was 
given suggest to him a failure of "engineered safe- 
guards or mitigating features," 110 another Type 4 
accident. (319) Accordingly, he said he did not 
consider a "Type 4" accident. (320) At this point, 
Dornsife said he saw no need to consider protective 
actions seriously, nor did the utility recommend 
that the State do so. (321) 


In addition to notifying the BRP, PEMA also 
notified others. A call was made at 7 :08 a.m. to the 
Dauphin County Office of Emergency Prepared- 
ness, 111 which had already been contacted by TMI 
at 7 :02. At 7 :45, Col. Oran K. Henderson, the Di- 
rector of PEMA, spoke with Governor Richard 
Thornburgh, who at 8:10 called Paul Critchlow, 
his Press Secretary, requesting that he start check- 
ing into the incident. (322) 

At 8 :20 a.m. PEMA notified Lt. Governor Wil- 
liam Scranton. Scranton was Chairman of PEMA 
and the person whom Governor Thornburgh put in 
overall charge of State response to the emer- 
gency. (323) 

Throughout the early morning hours, Critchlow 
and other aides in the Lt. Governor's office, along 
with David Milne, Press Secretary of the Depart- 
ment of Environmental Resources, and Dornsife, 
began to assemble facts about the TMI crisis for 
a previously scheduled news conference on energy. 
(324) These individuals loosely formed what 
amounted to an ad hoc emergency management 
structure that, as the day progressed, had the effect 
of minimizing PEMA's role in dealing with the 
accident, as described below. 

At 8:45 a.m. PEMA's operations officer, Dick 
Lamison, notified the Federal Defense Civil Pre- 
paredness Agency Region II of the accident at 
TMI-2. That agency placed its health physicist on 
alert and fed information to the other States 
within Region II and to its national office. It 
offered PEMA assistance, but Lamison said none 
was needed. (325) PEMA also was in touch with 
the Federal Protection Agency Regional Office in 
Philadelphia. Again, it did not request Federal 
assistance. (326) 

As the day wore on, PEMA and BRP were to 
call on outside resources, as did the NRC. Some 
time after 11, Margaret Reilly, Director of 

1 For two additional problems, see Addendum 18, pp. 157-158. 

' A breach somewhere in the primary system, such as the stnck-open PORV, permitting a loss of coolant. 

' These include safety features such as the Emergency Core Cooling System. 

' This is another name for the county civil defense unit. Three Mile Island is located in Dauphin County. 


51-058 0-80-9 

BRP's Division of Environmental Radiation, ac- 
cepted a second offer of assistance from Brook- 
haven National Laboratory (BNL), which had a 
radiological assistance plan under the aegis of the 
Department of Energy. (She said she had rejected 
their first offer of assistance at midmorning be- 
cause she assumed the incident would be over be- 
fore a BNL team could arrive.) (327) Brookhaven 
sent a team to assist with radiation monitoring. 
The BRP also relied on the National Weather 
Service to trace and forecast wind speed and direc- 
tion. The NRC Region I requested teams from 
several other DOE field operations ; these were co- 
ordinated through DOE's local command post, 
established at Capitol City Airport, New Cumber- 
land, 10 miles northwest of the plant. (328) 


From the beginning, PEMA as an organization 
played a relatively minor role in the accident, de- 
spite its designation as the lead agency and over- 
all coordinator of the State's emergency response. 
(329) There were several reasons. For one, PEMA 
had no technical experts. After notification of the 
accident by TMI, as outlined in PEMA's emer- 
gency plans, PEMA no longer spoke directly with 
the utility. (330) Instead, PEMA personnel were 
to rely on BRP to provide and interpret data from 
the site and to recommend the need for protective 
action such as evacuation. (331) 

However, the link between BRP and PEMA 
proved very weak. PEMA logs reveal that PEMA 
operations personnel received no new information 
from BRP between 9:40 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on 
March 28. (332) According to Dornsife, BRP was 
generally so busy with radiation monitoring that 
staff often forgot to brief PEMA. He acknowl- 
edged that BRP was supposed to keep PEMA 

. . . and get back to them and tell them 
what the situation was to begin with . . . 
[but] we were so involved in tracking, 
we forgot to inform PEMA. (333) 

Reilly agreed that, amidst its monitoring ac- 
tivities, BRP may not have kept PEMA suffi- 
ciently informed. She said she surmised, in addi- 
tion, that BRP's data may not have been under- 
stood by PEMA personnel because it was too 
technical. She said : 

I think we probably, to some extent, [fell] 
down on the job with them in that we 
didn't tell them information as to what 
was going on. Our stance was that if we 
perceived something they needed, we 
would tell them . . . you try to tell them in 
the language we speak, and it [the infor- 

mation] doesn't go through the conduits 
into PEMA too well. (334) 

Conversely, PEMA's Deputy Director, Craig 
Williamson, recalled that much of the informa- 
tion PEMA received from BRP was general in 
nature and unrelated to a determination of the 
need for protective action : 

We experienced difficulty [Wednesday 
and Thursday] with getting information 
in the form that we would disseminate it 
to the emergency system in the affected 
area. Much of the information was very 
general in nature and lacked the specifics 
that we really needed to inform the field. 

In addition, PEMA was understaffed. Accord- 
ing to John Comey, the PEMA Public Informa- 
tion Officer, in an extended emergency, he, for one, 
needed "trained personnel" who were aware of the 
requirements of the press and in a position to 
assist him. (336) In the past, the Governor's Press 
Secretary had assigned him public information 
counterparts from other State agencies. This time, 
that assistance was not forthcoming. (337) He ex- 
plained the situation : 

... it was about two and a half months 
into the administration . . . Members of 
the Commonwealth press office, the 
Governor's press office, were not aware 
of what our function was as far as the 
public information piece of it is con- 
cerned. They were not aware of our capa- 
bilities, the limitations, and the need to 
coordinate, the fact that we had a history, 
a good history, of providing this type 
of service to the members of the working 
press. (338) 

A major problem for PEMA, however, was 
relations with the Governor and Lt. Governor's 
offices. When Comey and his temporary assist- 
ants wanted to tell the press that PEMA was in 
an "advanced state of readiness," that approach 
conflicted with the Governor's. According to 
Comey : 

This type of descriptive adjective [ad- 
vanced state of readiness] the Governor 
did not want to use. He wanted it very 
low-keyed . . . [T]o give the press the 

confidence that we could accomplish this, 
which I knew we could, the [our] de- 
scriptions were a little more aggressive 
and this was quite contrary to what the 
Governor had in mind. And for that rea- 
son, he was critical in the very early stages 
of what we were doing down here. (339) 


Critchlow restrained PEMA's public informa- 
tion function : 

Question : What was the thinking be- 
hind what appeared to be a rather 
hampered ability on [Comey's] part to 
deal with the press? 

CRITCHLOW : Early on ... Comey was 
overloaded some of the people he was 
drawing in to help were making some 
potentially panic type inciting state- 
ments so we moved [in] to make sure 
any statements they did make were 
cleared through me and my office. (340) 

Comey commented : 

. . . My hands were tied. I was not per- 
mitted to conduct press conferences . . . to 
conduct daily press briefings. So it was 
[on] a one to one basis and that one to 
one often would include as many as one 
hundred to one hundred and fifty mem- 
bers of the National and International 
Press he re physically in the office. (341) 

There was also some question within PEMA at 
the beginning of the accident as to the accident's 
severity. Upon notification, PEMA Director Hen- 
derson's first reaction was that it was a test. (342) 
After the Lt. Governor's first briefing, Hender- 
son said he came away feeling the accident was 
small, isolated and insignificant. (343) 

The extent to which PEMA was excluded as an 
active participant is evidenced by the fact that 
it did not activate its Emergency Operations Cen- 
ter until Friday. Until then, according to PEMA]s 
Operations Officer, PEMA had received no indi- 
cation that the problem at TMI was serious. (344) 

Cxi VPII this situation, it was impossible for 
PEMA to work effectively with local agencies. 
Kevin J. Molloy, the Dauphin County Emergency 
Preparedness Director, said the information from 
PEMA was either so general, it was useless, or so 
technical, it told the lay county civil defense offi- 
cial nothing. (.>45) 

Comey pointed out. however, that he did not 
believe PEMA was supposed to transmit details 
on TMI to the counties, even had PEMA had that 
information. Nor did he believe the information 
was needed : 

The information provided to the Coun- 
ties throughout this period was the type 
of information they needed by and large 
to perfect their responsibilities in the 
evacuation process . . . Where we could, 
mention was made of what conditions 
were at the facility . . . The only thing 

that was required was that they know the 
task to be placed upon them, and also 
know the time frame that we are talking 
about. (346) 


The Lt. Governor's ad hoc management struc- 
ture took over PEMA's role. (347) This group 
was located in the State Capitol building and drew 
on resources from State agencies, including BRP 
and PEMA. The briefings and news conferences 
often involved PEMA Director Henderson, BRP 
Director Thomas Gerusky and Dornsife. 

There was criticism of the failure or inability 
of the ad hoc emergency group to transmit infor- 
mation to others. Comey said, "The information 
coming from the Governor's office was almost 
non-existent." (348) Molloy put it even more 
strongly. First he described the actual chain of 
command : 

. . . The accepted chain of command is 
local-to-County-to-State-to-Federal . . . 
When this procedure is followed, emer- 
gencies are handled expeditiously and 
professionally . . . Basically, through 
the entire incident the chain of command 
information-wise, went something like 
this : TMI/NRC/Governors Office, at the 
top block, the next block was the news 
media and the public, and last but not 
least, the Pennsylvania Emergency Man- 
agement Agency and County and local 
emergency personnel. (349) 

Molloy commented that often he and others got 
their news from the radio and television and that 
lie was very dissatisfied with the flow of commu- 
nications : 

. . . We did not have time to listen to the 
radio and T.V. etc. Yet this was the way 
the information was coming out of the 
Governor's office. It was not being given 
to PEMA, who could have filtered it down 
to us, etc. So information-wise from the 
Governor's office. I feel it left a lot to be 
desired. (350) 

Molloy and others complained often, on one 
occasion directly to the Lt. Governor, when he 
visited Mollov's office in the Dauphin County 
Courthouse. Although Scranton promised the flow 
of information would be improved, Molloy did 
not recall that happening. (351) He said he 
blamed the Governor and Lt. Governor's offices 
for undermining both the flow of information and 
the predesignated chain of decisionmaking. (352) 



As noted, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., only a 
few people in the control room at TMI-2 had 
realized the core had been uncovered. 112 General 
agreement had finally been reached that steam was 
present in the primary system, though there was 
less agreement as to its location within the system 
and whether it was superheated. Some believed 
the steam was only in the hotlegs, others that it was 
in the core as well. 

Mehler, as noted, had concluded there was steam 
in the hotlegs at about 6 a.m. Wider recognition 
that there was also steam in the core had come 
with the onslaught of radiation alarms at 6:40 
a.m. and the unsuccessful attempt between 6:54 
and 7:15 a.m. to get the reactor coolant pumps to 
run. (353) Yet Miller, who was in charge of emer- 
gency operations, replied that he was only aware 
of steam in the hotlegs : 

. . . By 9 a.m. I was convinced that we 
had steam phase in the hotlegs because 
of the [hotleg] . . . temperatures plus 
the start of the reactor coolant pumps 
which showed us they were not pumping 
water. So I would say we were aware of 
a steam condition. . . . (354) 

There is no evidence that he deduced the core 
had been uncovered. 

On the other hand, John Flint said he recog- 
nized that the steam in the reactor was so hot 
(that is, so superheated) that it could not be col- 
lapsed back into the coolant. 113 He also said he de- 
duced that the core probably had been uncovered. 
(355) At the time it was generally known that 
the only way superheated steam could be pro- 
duced in a reactor was through core uncovering. 114 

Between 9 and 9:30 a.m. the Emergency Com- 
mand Team decided to repressurize the reactor 
in an effort to collapse the steam 115 and estab- 
lish natural circulation. Flint said he argued 
against this strategy, recognizing that the super- 
heated steam was so hot in excess of 700 F, 
according to the hotleg temperature readings 
that pressure could not be raised high enough 
within the capability of the system to collapse the 
steam back into water : 

. . . That morning I had recommended 
against the repressurization because, if 

the temperatures were true, we could not, 
in fact, collapse the [steam] bubble. (357) 

Nevertheless, the Emergency Command Team 
directed the operators to repressurize. 


To raise pressure, the amount of makeup was 
increased and the block valve kept closed. By 
9 :45 a.m., pressure was about the same as at the 
start of the accident 2,100 psi. However, the 
steam bubbles did not disappear. 

Flint had been right with temperatures at 
700 F or greater, pressure would have to have 
been raised around 3,000 psi to collapse the super- 
heated steam, a pressure that exceeded the NRG 
Technical Specifications and approached the 
maximum test pressure for the system. 116 (358) 

Superheat Went Unrecognized 

The fact that the Emergency Command Team 
attempted repressurization shows that its mem- 
bers had not recognized there was superheated 
steam in the system. There is no evidence to sug- 
gest that superheated steam was ever discussed 
at any of the emergency command team meetings. 

Two weeks after the accident, when the man- 
agement team gathered to record its recollections. 
Rogers, Miller and Ross discussed the decision to 
repressurize and the lack of insight into super- 
heated conditions. The following exchanges clear- 
ly indicate that this condition had not been a 

ROGERS : . . . Somewhere around 9 :30 
you [the utility] started raising pressure 
trying to collapse the steam bubble. In 
our stupidity, we thought we could col- 
lapse a superheated steam bubble and we 
weren't even thinking it was superheated 
at the time. 

Ross : No, we were just trying to pour 
water into the [legs]. 

ROGERS: We weren't even thinking 
about it. We were just trying to push the 
pressure up with [high pressure injection 
water] being injected to try and get the 
thing solid [with water]. We knew we 
had steam in the loops, and we knew we 
had to get it moved somehow. And that 
was our attempt, after a meeting in the 
supervisor's office, ... to raise pressure 

la See pp. 113-114, 116. 

115 See fn. 115 below. 

14 The thesis that the only proximate cause of superheated conditions is core uncovering is now being challenged as 
a result of events at TMI. Some analysts contend that, following uncovering of and damage to the core early in the 
morning, superheat was produced in the afternoon by fission products in the primary system hotlegs. See pp. 142-143 on 
conditions in the afternoon. 

115 One way to rid the system of steam is to subject it to enough pressure that it is forced back into solution in the 
water. This can be done by adding water to the system, which will cause pressure to increase, or by closing the system, 
allowing pressure to build as heat to the system is increased. 

16 The pressure at which the reactor coolant system was designed to operate was 2,500 psi ; the maximum pressure 
allowable during hydrostatic testing was 3,125 psi. The Technical Specification limit set by the NEC was 2,750 psig. 


to try to inject [high pressure injection 
water] to move the steam. (359) 

It was only after the system reached high pres- 
sure without collapsing the steam that some, but 
not all, members of the emergency team con- 
cluded there was superheated steam in the hotlegs. 
Rogers stated, 

. . . [We knew they had superheat] from 
the time when they got up to normal 
system pressure and had the resistance 
bridge to the RTD's (resistance tempera- 
ture detector) hooked up] . . . During that 
period of time with high pressure we con- 
cluded and . . . essentially we all agreed 
we were at superheat. (360) 

Miller also indicated repressurization led him 
to recognize they had superheated steam in the 
hotlegs : 

. . . We were considering going higher 
in pressure but by that time we had dis- 
cussed steam conditions and going higher 
wouldn't help us ... We were pumping . . . 
as high a pressure as we had decided to 
go. and the water level [was] not charg- 
ing the system solid, and in fact we were 
losing water to the reactor building 
floor. 11171 In other words, very hot super- 
heated conditions. (361) 

Zewe also said he recognized superheat. Follow- 
ing repressurization. he had consulted the steam 
tables 11S in the control room from which the prop- 
erties of steam in the hotlegs could be determined 
and had concluded that superheated steam was 
present. (362) However, he said that because 
control room personnel realized there were steam 
bubbles in the hotlegs. they were not sure that, the 
hotleg temperature readings were correct. (363) 

On the other hand. Logan and Ross said they 
were not aware of the superheated conditions, Bug- 
gating that Miller. Rogers and Zewe did not 
share their conclusions with the whole team. 

Logan said that such a condition was never 
made evident to him. (364) Ross, who was directly 
under Miller in operational control of the plant, 
stated : 

I don't think I ever personally put it 
together and said. "Jesus, superheated 
.-team." I knew we had a problem: we 
couldn't fill the loops. I don't think I 
ever inade it to. "Gee, we're super- 

... I don't think I ever deduced anjthing 
about superheated steam. (365) 

This is a further indication that superheated 
conditions were not discussed by the entire team. 
Beyond that, there is no evidence that those who 
recognized superheated steam in the system ever 
discussed its origin, its consequences or its meaning 
in terms of returning the plant to stable conditions. 

Why Superheat Was Missed 

The control room personnel gave a number of 
reasons for their failure to analyze the implica- 
tions of superheat. Zewe explained that he did not 
know the true temperature of the core itself; he 
was not aware of the earlier incore thermocouple 
readings Porter had given Miller. (366) Further, 
while both Zewe and Rogers said they realized 
that the hotleg temperatures they were getting, 
and which they considered reliable, were good in- 
dicators of superheated steam in the hotlegs, their 
statements indicate they also knew their hotleg 
temperatures were not necessarily useful for un- 
derstanding the properties of steam in the core. 

Rogers explained : 

Question : And you weren't relying on 
the hotleg temperature as an indicator 
of the reactor coolant system ? 

ROGERS : You could not. 

Question : Why couldn't you ? 

ROGERS: Because there was no water 
passing through the core getting to the 
notice RTD [resistance temperature de- 
tector]. (368) 

In addition, unlike senior XRC officials later 
in the afternoon, both Zewe and Rogers indicated 
they undeistood that the core could be covered 
even when temperature readings in the hotlegs 
signified sujjerheated steam conditions in the 
higher regions of the reactor. 

Zewe was questioned on this point: 

Question : But if you had the core cov- 
ered would you have expected to have 
seen that [superheated] condition in the 

ZEWE : . . . I think that it is conceivable 
we could still have water in the core, but 
still have steam voids in the hotleg be- 
cause they were above the elevation of the 
core, and we could have bubbles formed 
high in the hotleg and have [water] in 
the vessel ; yes. (369) 

Rogers explained how he reached a similar 
conclusion : 

. . . Let me say something that helps 
[explain] that. " In this plant, several 
months previous to [the accident], dur- 

"' Water was lost through the stuck-open PORV as the operators opened and closed the block valve to regulate 

'" See p. 107. 


ing the [hot] functional testing program 
when the core [was] not installed, a phe- 
nomenon had occurred where we had 
trapped a lot of hot water in the hotlegs, 
and subsequently had the rest of the sys- 
tem colder. And without the ability to run 
the reactor coolant pumps, which we did 
not have at that time, we could not get the 
heat out of those hotlegs ; even with the 
system filled with water, we could not 
move any heat from that. It's in a natural 
trapped condition. So this is not some- 
thing that really startled me, that I had 
hot conditions in the hotlegs and the rest 
of the system lower temperatures. That 
was not something new to us ... It was 
accepted as a condition because of the 
layout of the plant ... It has happened at 
other B&W plants, so it was not a brand 
new problem. 119 (370) 

Neither explanation, however, addresses why 
they did not discuss past uncovering as the source 
of the superheated conditions. 

Unlike Zewe, Miller did know of some of the 
incore thermocouple readings, but had discounted 
them as unreliable. 120 He said he was relying on 
hotleg temperatures, which he believed were the 
hottest temperatures in the system : 

. . . The resistance temperature detector I 
have spoken of was reading around 720 
degrees. The cold temperature was read- 
ing I think, less than 200. The steam [gen- 
erator] downcomer temperature was 
around 500 or so at various times; the 
RTD [resistance temperature detector] 
in the hotleg being the hottest ... At that 
time I would probably assume the core 
was somewhere below . . . 700 without 
knowledge of specifically why. (371) 

At the same time, Rogers had incorrectly inter- 
preted the pressurizer temperature as the best in- 
dicator of core temperature. He believed it was a 
better indicator of core temperatures than the 
hotlegs : 

... I accepted that the temperature in the 
pressurizer was a result of the water com- 
ing in through the core and going out 
through the surge line to the pressurizer. 
I accepted [it] myself, and a lot of other 
people were accepting the same 
thing 121 (372) 

None of the other control room personnel inter- 
viewed by the Special Investigation staff men- 
tioned this position. Miller, for example, implied 
that pressurizer instrumentation as a whole could 
not be relied on : 

. . . We really didn't trust the pressurizer 
instrumentation because we knew the con- 
dition of the loop being [having] steam 
bubbles. (374) 

Rogers also told Special Investigation staff that 
he was unaware of any steam condition in the core 
itself, either during repressurization or at any 
other time in the day. Nor, Rogers said, was it 
likely he or others would have deduced that : 

. . . No, I would not say that I knew that 
we had [steam and water] conditions in 
the core. We were totally convinced we 
had steam in the loops, and I believe with 
what we knew we were putting in there, 
we would not have assumed that we had 
steam in the core at that point in time, 
and probably wouldn't through that day 
with the information we had anyway. 

Both Miller and Rogers gave as a reason for 
their not recognizing core uncovering as the source 
of superheated steam their preoccupation with 
identifying a strategy for returning the plant to 
stability : 

MILLER: The only action I considered 
was to maintain core coverage. I don't 
think I went back and asked myself how 
we had gotten to this point . . . (376) 
* * * 

Question: What led to superheat? 

ROGERS : ... in the control room at that 
point in time and probably throughout 
the rest of the day we didn't have the 
luxury nor the need to go back and look 
at. how we got to where we were. (377) 

This failure by the utility to establish trends or 
to look back at causes of conditions was a serious 
analytical weakness that would be repeated again 
during the day. It was an obstacle to an effective 
response by outside agencies, in particular the 

Differing Recollections 

Based on the collective recollections of Kunder, 
Logan and Ross, concern about a steam bubble 

119 This design problem was recognized by GPU and B&W during hot functional testing of the plant, but apparently 
was not communicated to operators prior to the accident. See "Prior to the Accident," p. 63. 

120 See pp. 112-113. 

"' In fact, pressurizer temperature was not a good indicator. The evidence suggests that pressurizer temperatures 
during the accident were hundreds of degrees below actual core temperatures. The relief valves on the pressurizer, as 
well as the loop seal and the isolation of the temperature measuring devices from the pressurizer vessel, would tend to 
prevent these devices from registering superheat. Other evidence suggests that Rogers was led to focus on pressurizer 
temperature as a result of a recommendation from a Babcock & Wilcox task force in T.ynchburg, Virginia. (373) 


on top of the core and uncertainty over whether 
the core was uncovered was one of the motivating 
factors in the next step they would take depres- 
Miri/.ation. Logan said. "The determination was 
made that we . . . had a bubble in the top of the 
IJo: recalled that this determina- 
tion was made during the planning for depres- 
surization. (379) Yet Miller, who recalled a con- 
cern that flow from HPI was bypassing the core, 
- I did not recall any discussion of steam in 
the. core : 

Question : Were you confident there 
wasn't steam in the core '. 

MII.I.ER: I don't believe we were con- 
fident of that, but I can't honestly re- 
member discussing that . . . We talked 
about heat removability, I think, mow 
than steam bubbles in the core. . . . (381) 

In hindsight, there was an unwillingness among 
mine control room personnel to believe the worst, 
and inadequate communication among those 

Two weeks after the accident Miller stated that 
during that first day he "did not admit the reality 
of failed fuel." (382) Flint has said repeatedly 
that he told Rogers that morning that the core 
probably had been uncovered. Rogers, however. 
>aid he did not recall hearing that significant 

Similarly, when Flint expressed his doubts 
about repressurization. given his belief that the 
.-team in the hotlegs was superheated, he said 
his advice was not heeded. (383) He was proven 
correct, but that did not lead to a general aware- 
of that condition. Xuclear engineers in the 
plant also had concluded there had been voiding 
in the core, but members of the emergency com- 
mand team have not indicated they were aware 
of that information. Similarly, there is no evi- 
dence showing that the opinions of the instrument 
technicians, who took the incore thermocouple 
readings and from them deduced core uncovering, 
ever reached the team. Thus, as the alxrve dis- 
cu>sion illustrate:-, there were both physical indi- 
cations of the condition of the core and several 
cleai- statements about those indications, yet many 
members of the utility's emergency command 
team apparently remained unaware of them. 

It is also important to recall that some two hours 
prior to depressurization, Edson Case of the XRC 
had surmised on his own that part of the core had 
been uncovered and had expressed this opinion to 
Commissioner Aheame. (384) Yet neither the 
Commissioners nor the XRC emergency response 
staff pursued this concern directly with the utility 

or discussed the need for protective action with 
the State. 122 


At 9 :'2fi a.m.. during the time that the utility was 
repressurizing. Kunder spoke on the telephone 
with Donald Haverkamp at Region I. 123 Haver- 
kamp asked Kunder to "go through the scenario'" 
of what had happened earlier in the morning. 
O.'i) During the conversation, Region I and. 
through it. IRACT in Washington received some 
important information. 

Kunder told the regional office that the reactor 
coolant pumps were off and that there was no flow 
through the primary system. Part of Kunder's ex- 
planation went as follows: 

. . . The pressure came ... all the way 
down to about 1.000 pounds and that was 
roughly over a 15 minute span. I think it 
was during that condition that we . . . got 
a bubble [or] some such through appar- 
ently the heating in the core up in the 
loops and ... it apparently had an effect 
of vapor locking ... It looks to me 
[like] we had that vapor locking effect 
being fed by the heat in the core . . . The 
problem [then was] trying to get the pres- 
sure down low enough so we are sure that 
the flow is going down into the reactor 
vessel annulus n - J ' and up into the core. 
Yai>or lock is apparently preventing that 
from occurring. (386) 

Region I did not report to IRACT that there 
were steam conditions in the core at that time. This 
was a serious breakdown in communications that 
adversely affected the XRC's potential ability to 
understand the accident. However. Kunder did not 
specifically tell Haverkamp there was steam in the 
core: he mentioned only that vapor locking was 
causing the problems with flow. 

When Special Investigation staff read him parts 
of his conversation with Haverkamp. Kunder re- 
sponded : 

. . . That's interesting. That's more accu- 
rate than I have been recalling. My per- 
ception at that time. I think, was. I guess. 
pretty accurate in the sense that I was 
aware we had steam in the core and in the 
hotlegs. los?) 

15 minutes after IRACT learned that the 
reactor coolant pumps were off and there was no 
flow. Region I Director (trier called John Davis. 
Davis asked whether, given this condition, Grier 

'" See the discussion of evacuation, pp. 132-135. 

1:4 Fifteen minutes earlier Region I had begun tai>e recording communications between the site and its office. Thus. 
there was a record of the conversation. 

;i The space between the reactor vessel wall and the core. 


had any concerns about adequate cooling of the 
core. He replied, "not as long as pressure and tem- 
perature continue to come down." (388) 

At that very moment the utility was trying to 
repressurize to increase pressure in the primary 
system, not bring it down. (389) Grier's statement, 
viewed in the context of what was actually hap- 
pening at the plant, typified the communications 
problems that hampered the NRC's response 
throughout the morning and early afternoon. 


By 9 :30 a.m., IRACT had received the following 
information from the region : 

There was a failure of nuclear fuel. (390) 
There was high radiation in the contain- 
ment. (391) 
There was increased containment pressure. 

The reactor coolant pumps had been shut 

off. (393) 

There was boiling water in the reactor cool- 
ant system. (394) 

These facts indicated that the plant had had sig- 
nificant problems, was still in an abnormal condi- 
tion and had, earlier in the morning, experienced 
some problem with cooling the core. This was, in 
fact, the essence of Edson Case's interpretation of 
the situation just before 9 a.m. (395) However, 
NEC headquarters lacked the data the utility and 
its own Region I personnel had that provided a 
clearer indication of core uncovering. (396) 


Between 9 :45 and 11 :30 a.m., the emergency 
command team decided to depressurize the reactor. 

A number of concerns prompted this strategy. 
Because attempts to achieve natural circulation 
had failed, control room personnel had been using 
the make-up pumps to provide water to cool the, 
core. Several said they were becoming worried the 
supply of cooling water would become depleted. 
According to Ross, 

. . . We were getting concerned that we 
were going to run out of water soon . . . 
[Depressurization] was kind of a rash 
move, we felt at the time. But we felt it 
was necessary. . . . (398) 

Miller concurred, 

... I was concerned with the amount of 
water. We had hours of water left, but 
were talking about bringing in the ulti- 
mate water sources at the time. (399) 

Another reason control room personnel gave for 
depressurization was that repeated operation of 
the block valve, used to regulate pressure during 
repressurization, might cause it to fail. (400) 

The most significant reason, however, was uncer- 
tainty whether the core was uncovered. The dis- 
cussion regarding depressurization did not focus 
on superheat, but rather on the possibility that a 
saturated steam bubble atop the core might be in- 
hibiting flow through the core. (401) 

As Miller recalled, 

. . . We knew there were steam bubbles 
within some of the pipes. We looked at 
elevation diagrams, and I remember some 
of that kind of analysis. There were peo- 
ple in the group throughout the morning 
who postulated that the high pressure in- 
jection [of coolant water] possibly could 
be by-passing some of the core. (402) 

Rogers had the same recollection. 

... At some point in time in the meeting 
which preceded our reducing the pressure 
again, the question was brought up, "Are 
we absolutely sure that the high pressure 
injection water is getting to the core?" 
"Are we absolutely sure that the core is in- 
deed being covered?" (403) 

Following the accident, Kunder recalled a con- 
cern of his that chemicals in the coolant water 
might be concentrating in the core and blocking 
the passage of water: 

... I know another thing that I was wor- 
ried about, and I think we all shared the 
same concern : were we 
boric acid in there ? (404) 

Not all the control room personnel shared the 
various concerns. Miller, for example, responded 
to Kunder's statement about the concentration of 
boron by saying "that never bothered me at that 
time." (405) 

The weight of the evidence suggests that the. 
primary concern was the possibility that the 
core was uncovered. 125 


Ihe XRC s Special Inquiry Group stated : "At 11 :30 a.m., because no one can think of anything else that has not 
been tried, the decision is made to depressurize the system. Later, it will appear that there are several different 
perceptions of the precise reasons for depressurizing." (406) 

Although parts of this conclusion are correct, on the whole it is misleading. In contrast with this Investigation, 
the Special Inquiry Group did not point out that there were two separate attempts to depressurize, each with separate 



Some control room personnel said they were 
looking for a way to assure themselves the core 
wa> covered. They had no means of measuring 
water level directly, and they had long since 
discounted pressurizer level as a reliable in- 
direct indicator. They reasoned that by depres- 
surizing they could force the core flood tanks 
to come on and inject water onto the core. 

Several members of the management team, in 
interviews with Special Investigation staff, de- 
scribed how they expected to be able to in- 
terpret the behavior of the core flood tanks. 

MILLER: ... if the core was signif- 
icantly dry and pressure differential ex- 
isted, we felt we would push a lot of 
water into the core. (408) 

Ross: We assumed that if the core 
was. in fact. very, very empty, and we 
lowered pressure, that the core flood 
tanks would inject, and cover the core 
again. (409) 

If. on the other hand, the water level was al- 
ready high, they believed the tanks would inject 
only a small amount of water, meaning that the 
core was covered. 

Miller, though he said he did not agree with 
all the concerns, decided to depressurize : 

. . . During that morning the group 
that I assembled were discussing the fact 
that we wanted . . . double assurance 
that the water we were pumping in was 
covering the core ... I didn't believe 
the core was uncovered but I listened to 
people in my group [who were] looking 
for double assurance. (410) 


At about 11 :30 a.m.. the operators began to de- 
pressurize by opening the block valve and de- 
creasing HPL One hour later, at about 12 :41 p.m., 
the pressure at which the core flood tanks are ac- 
tivated 600 psi was reached, and they injected 
water into the core. (411) This continued for 30 

minutes. Pressure continued to fall to about 435 
psi, just above the 430 psi level that the NRC had 
been told was the point at which the decay heat 
removal system would come on. 126 (413) Only a 
minimal amount of water was dumped onto the 
core before the tanks shut off approximately 750 
gallons equivalent in volume to only a minute 
and a half of flow from one HPI pump. 127 (414) 


At 1 :10 p.m., the operators closed the block 
valve, thereby terminating depressurization. The 
control room personnel said they were convinced 
that the minimal amount of water injected into 
the core meant it was covered. Miller, for one. 
commented : 

. . . We had a foot, foot and a half, of 
water decrease [in the core flood tanks] 
and that convinced most people in the 
group that we didn't have major uncov- 
erage at that point. (415) 

Rogers noted : 

. . . That [core flood tank injection] 
occurred in a way that everyone agreed 
was an indication of water in the core 
. . . that was conclusive evidence that 
there was a water phase in the core know- 
ing full well they had a steam-noncon- 
densible phase in the hotlegs. (416) 

According to Rogers, he and some other control 
room personnel went a step further and concluded 
that, since the tanks did not dump all their water 
at once (an event that clearly would have indi- 
cated that the core was uncovered at the time), it 
had never been uncovered at all. As Rogers told 
the Special Investigation staff: 

... I will readily admit that that 
statement [that the core had never been 
uncovered] was made quite a few times 
in the control room at that point in time 
when we deliberately went down to the 
core flood tank float condition, the ob- 
jective being assuring the core is covered. 
When that occurred more than one per- 
son in the control room said. "Hey, the 

objectives. The purpose of the first depressurization. when it was planned, was to ensure the core was covered, not to 
bring into operation the low pressure decay heat removal system. As Rogers told Special Investigation staff: 

. There was no deliberate action to go to low pressure injection conditions at that point. It was agreed that 
at some i*Ant in time we will want to get there . . . [But] the concern over whether the core was covered is 
why that action was taken . . . We would want to get the water phase (in the hotlegs) before we [went] to 
decay heat. (407) 

The objective of the second depressurization to use the low pressure decay heat removal system was stated in 
a conversation between Miller and Ross : the content of their discussion was not generally known, even to control room 
Iiersonnel. until two weeks after the accident. This would explain the differing recollections of control room personnel 
about the purpose of depressurization. 

"* In fact, the setpoint was 320 psi. (412) 

^ It is unclear why so little water was released from the core flood tanks. It could be that the core was covered at 
that point, or it could have been the result of the effect of steam and gas in the reactor coolant system. See pp. 142-143. 


core's covered and it probably has never 
been uncovered." (417) 

It is clear, in hindsight, that they were wrong. 
Furthermore, there is no evidence that the com- 
mand team took into account how the core flood 
tanks would behave in a situation where the core 
was only partially covered or being cooled by 
steam. In both cases, depressurization would tend 
to increase boiling, since water boils sooner at 
lower pressures. The boiling would in turn in- 
crease the volume of steam in the system, which 
would in turn raise pressure in the system. This 
would inhibit the flow of water from the core flood 
tanks, as they empty only if pressure in the reac- 
tor vessel is lower than in the tanks. Thus, with 
a core that was partially uncovered, the core flood 
tanks would only be able to discharge a portion of 
their contents, since the injected water would 
quickly flash to steam, raising pressure and there- 
by reducing the pressure differential between the 
core flood tanks and the reactor vessel. 

Further, the NRC has pointed out in an early 
investigation of the accident, that because of the 
layout of the core flood tank piping, minimal in- 
jection by the tanks cannot be interpreted to mean 
the core is covered. (418) When there are satu- 
rated or superheated steam conditions in the sys- 
tem, the core flood tanks can become cut off from 
the core. The steam can form loop seals in the core 
flood tank piping which can prevent the tanks 
from injecting water onto the core even if the core 
is totallv devoid of water. (419) 


Shortly after 1 :10 p.m., a control room opera- 
tor's log showed the entry : "Stopped HPI." (420) 
While the meaning of this entry has never been 
explained, the evidence shows that over the next 
several hours the amount of water being added to 
the system was again throttled to low rates of 
flow. (421) 


A five-member NRC inspection team arrived 
onsite at 10 :10 a.m.. when radiation in the Unit 2 
control room had reached levels that required 
evacuation of non-essential personnel. Personnel 
were moved either to the Unit 1 control room, 
where the Emergency Control Station was being 
transferred, or to the Three Mile Island Observa- 
tion Center, a facility for visitors adjacent to the 
plant on the east bank of the Susquehanna. Those 
who remained in the Unit 2 control room had to 

use respirators periodically for the rest of the day. 

Miller directed the NRC inspectors to the con- 
trol room at Unit 1. (423) The NRC team had 
been sent by emergency vehicle at 8 :45 a.m. from 
the Region I office near Philadelphia, about 85 
miles away. 128 It was comprised mainly of health 
physicists; there was only one operations in- 
spector. (425) 

According to the Region I plan, the Project 
Inspector for the facility "normally" is to be a 
member of the inspection team and to serve as 
its leader. (426) However, according to Brunner. 
because of the erroneous information about radi- 
ation releases that morning, the Region thought 
the problem was largely radiological. (427) The 
TMI Project Inspector therefore was not in- 
cluded on the team. (428) Instead, the Region 
decided to monitor the operational problems by 
telephone from the Regional Incident Response 
Center. (429) 

Once again, misinformation had been trans- 
mitted and resulted in an inappropriate response. 
Further, as will be seen, the presence of NRC 
representatives onsite did little to improve the 
flow of communications or the accuracy of the 
information that was transmitted. 

Shortly after the inspection team was dis- 
patched, a two-man back-up team with a second 
operations inspector left for the site. Later in the 
afternoon the Region I Project Section Chief for 
TMI was sent. (430) 


The NRC's overall goal is to protect the health 
and safety of the public. To meet that goal, it is 
essential that the NRC have the ability to respond 
quickly in the event of an accident. This basic 
premise was a lesson the NRC had learned from 
its analysis of its inadequate response to the 
Browns Ferry fire of 1975. (431) 

Despite that overall goal, the procedures in the 
Region I plan allowed up to 6 hours before an 
NRC team had to be onsite, even in the case of 
the most serious category of nuclear accident. 
(432) There was, however, another procedure 
Region I could have followed, given the condi- 
tions of the TMI accident. This procedure pro- 
vided for the dispatch of the inspection team by 
two predesignated modes of transportation both 
by emergency vehicle and by either helicopter or 
chartered aircraft. (433) Region I decided to use 
an emergency vehicle only, (434) and although 
the reactor is located only about 85 miles from 

28 The Plan specifies that emergency vehicle and "rotary or fixed wing aircraft" transportation are appropriate in 
the case of a Level I incident (defined as "an event which has an actual or imminent serious threat to public health and 
safety, the environment, property, or security and safeguards of licensed facilities and materials) under certain condi- 
tions." Those conditions relate to weather, time of day and distance from the regional office. (424) 


the regional office, the inspection team did not 
arrive until nearly two and a half hours after 
notification. (435) 

In correspondence with Special Investigation 
staff. Boyce Grier. Director of Region I, noted 
that the second procedure relating to transporta- 
tion of the inspection team was not a requirement 
but merely "guidance on selection of the trans- 
portation "mode." (436) He also wrote: 

. . . Since the team departed Region I 
at 8 :45 a.m. [one hour after notification] 
and arrived at the TMI-2 control room 
at 10:05 a.m. [2:20 after notification] 
the intent of the Plan was met, (437) 

In fact, the onsite inspection team did not set up 
operations in the Unit -2 control room until about 
11:30 a.m.. nearly an hour-an-a-half after their 
arrival at the plant during the evacuation of the 
Unit 2 control room. 

Had Region I used air transportation to the 
site, along with the simultaneous dispatch of an 
emergency vehicle, the XRC could have mitigated 
the communications difficulties that were a direct 
result of the team's arrival during evacuation of 
the Unit 2 control room. 


When non-essential personnel were evacuated 
to the Unit 1 control room, the original phone con- 
nection between the Unit 2 control room and the 
Region was broken since Warren, the individual 
manning the phone there, was among those 

Although a line was established between Region 
1 and the Unit 1 control room shortly after the 
arrival of the XRC on?ite inspection team, for a 
period of about an hour-and-a-half there was no 
direct communication between the Unit 2 control 
room and either the Region or XRC headquart- 
' This was a critical period, a time when 
there was uncertainty about whether the core was 
covered, when a new strategy was being planned, 
and when the dimensions of the accident and what 
the utility intended to do or was doing to achieve 
stability should have been communicated directly 
to offsite agencies. 

It was during this period of no direct contact 
with Unit 2 that the Commissioners asked for 
hourly briefings from the EMT. unless a significant 
development necessitated a more immediate call. 

Prognosis at NRC Headquarters 

At about 10:16 a.m.. the Commissioners at head- 
quarters Gilinsky. Kennedy and Bradford re- 
ceived the first collective briefing from EMT mem- 
bers Davis. Case and Lee Gossick. With respect to 

the status of the reactor, Case told the 
Commissioners : 

I think right now we have the situation 
under control and we'll have to keep get- 
ting information to make sure that con- 
tinues. (440) 

After this briefing. Commissioner Bradford 
decided to join Commissioner Ahearne at the Re- 
sponse Center in Bethesda. This meant that there 
were two Commissioners at the Response Center, 
one at a local hospital and two at XRC headquar- 
ters in Washington. D.C. 

Others in IRACT and the EMT were conveying 
the same favorable information about the status 
of the reactor. At 10:32 a.m.. IRACT's Brian 
Grimes briefed the Director of the Office of Xuclear 
Reactor Regulation. Harold Denton. Grimes told 
him that as far as he could tell, the reactor's core 
was in "a fairly normal status." although it was 
not clear to IRACT that the operators had reestab- 
lished the proper water level in the pressurizer. 

During the next briefing of the Commis- 
sioners, around 11 a.m., Gilinsky asked whether the 
reactor was "under control." (442) Case told him : 

The signs are encouraging, Vic. Pres- 
surizer level is up ... we have coldleg 
temperature measurements of 220. which 
is good. We have indications that one 
steam generator is being used for nat- 
ural circulation and transferring heat 
outside the primary system. So signs 
. . . continue to be good. 129 (443) 

IRACT member Harold Thornburg made 
similar statements when briefing the Regional 
Directors of the Office of Inspection and En- 
forcement at about the same time : "They're 
getting the situation under control/' (444) "it 
looks like the damn thing seems cool now." 
(445) "it does look like thev are cooling the 
thing." (446) 

The Flow of Misinformation 

Part of the reason for the transmittal of in- 
accurate information was that IRACT was get- 
ting the wrong information about a kev con- 
dition natural circulation. This was contributing 
to their incorrect analysis of the accident. In addi- 
tion, they were not getting the proper data on hot- 
leg temperatures. Following repressurization at 
9 :30 a.m., hotleg temperatures in the "A* 7 loop had 
increased from about 680 F to 730-740 F. where 
they remained until about 11 :30. by which time the 
utility had reversed its strategy and was attempt- 
ing to reach stability through depressurization. 
( 447) There is no evidence that XRC headquarters 
was made aware of this upward trend in tempera- 

' On the accuracy of this account, see p. 132. 


tures. In fact, for two-and-a-half hours TRACT 
continued to receive only the hotleg-coldleg aver- 
age temperatures, mistakenly reported either as 
hotleg or as primary system temperatures. (448) 

Misleading conversations between Met Ed em- 
ployees and NRC officials in Region I con- 
tributed to the confusion between average tem- 
peratures and hotleg temperatures. Typical was 
an earlier conversation at about 10 :15 a.m. be- 
tween Kunder in the Unit 2 control room and 
Region I's Haverkamp. 

Kunder told Haverkamp that the unit super- 
intendent in charge of operations, Mike Ross, was 
certain the core was covered. (449) It is now evi- 
dent that some control room personnel were, at 
that time, concerned whether the core really was 
covered; it was this concern that had led to the 
decision to depressurize. 13 Kunder did not men- 
tion any of these doubts concerning core coverage. 
Although he did convey the control room person- 
nel's doubts about the hotleg temperatures, in 
doing so, he mistakenly characterized the average 
temperature reading of 571F as the hotleg tem- 
perature : 

KUNDER (to Mike Ross in Unit 2 con- 
trol room) : Mike, how does the core look ? 

KUXDER (to Haverkamp) : [I'm] talk- 
ing to Mike Ross he's looking at the in- 
dications; his assessment is that he's 
surely . . . got the core covered and we are 
getting water . . . into the core. The only 
thing though is that the T h [hotleg tem- 
peratures] are still high and that's what 
bothers us ; the pressure, and getting con- 
trol of it, and . . . 

HAVERKAMP : What is your pressure and 
temperature now ? 

KUNDER: The pressure is still up 
around what I told you, it's holding there, 
okay : We got a bubble in the pressur- 
izer . . . But he is still baffled by the T hot 
[hotleg temperatures] ; we are really try- 
ing to access that. T hot right now is 
reading 571 degrees F but, again, I am 
not sure how real a number that is. (450) 

At about 11 :40 a.m., IRACT received both hot 
and coldleg temperature readings. The Region re- 
ported the hotleg temperature to be 620F. (451) 
It did not tell IRACT that 620F was not a real 
measure of temperature in the primary system, but 
merely the upper limit on the scale on the control 
room console and that the instrument was reading 
offscale high. 

The actual temperature at that point was about 
730F. While the control room personnel knew the 
reading of 620F from the strip chart on the con- 

sole in the control room was inaccurate, there is 
no evidence that the NRC inspectors who were in 
the control room or that IRACT in Bethesda knew 
this until 4 p.m. 

The Meaning of Coldleg Temperatures? 

IRACT was, at this time, getting accurate cold- 
leg temperatures in the neighborhood of 220 F. 
However, IRACT and EMT members interpreted 
the accuracy of these readings differently. Dur- 
ing the 11 a.m. briefing of the Commissioners, 
Edson Case of the EMT reported the coldleg tem- 
perature without mentioning hotleg temperatures 
or the difficulty in acquiring them. He also told 
the Commissioners he believed the coldleg read- 
ing was "good." (452) Twenty minutes later, in 
a briefing of NRC Region IV, IRACT's Harold 
Thornburg stated that the coldleg temperature did 
not "look right." (453) 



Transcripts of telephone conversations between 
Region I and IRACT show that at 9 :08 a,m. the 
Region informed IRACT that a Met Ed radiation 
survey team had reported measurable levels of 
radioactive iodine at the plant's perimeter. (454) 
The survey team was said to have detected the 
iodine while measuring a radioactive plume re- 
leased from the plant. James Sniezek, who was at 
IRACT that morning assembling and analyzing 
incoming radiation measurements, concurred with 
Special Investigation staff that a reading of ra- 
dioactive iodine from a plume at the site's perim- 
eter would indicate a subsequent offsite release. 
(455) Indeed, a 9:22 a.m. air sample taken in 
Goldsboro on the west bank of the Susquehanna 
River opposite the site was reported to contain 
measurable levels of radioactive iodine. (456) 

Although IRACT learned about the radioactive 
iodine in the plume over an hour before the NRC 
issued its first press release at 10 :30 a.m., the NRC 
informed the public in its press release that : 

Measurements are still being made to de- 
termine if there has been any radioactiv- 
ity detected off the site. There is no indi- 
cation of a release off the site. (457) 

Joseph Fouchard, Director of NRC's Office of 
Public Affairs, was with the EMT throughout 
March 28. Fouchard said that the information in 
the NRC's press releases was based on conversa- 
tions he had with members of the EMT. (458) As 
noted, the EMT was receiving reports on site 

1 See pp. 128-129. 


Personnel plot wind directions to assist in radiation monitoring 

status and radiation from IRACT. Fouchard did 
not recall clearing the press releases with Sniezek 
at IRACT. but Sniezek indicated IRACT person- 
nel saw extracts of them. (459) 

Inaccurate radiological information was trans- 
mitted at other times on Wednesday and dissemi- 
nated to the public, reflecting the inadequacy of 
both the radiation monitoring around the site and 
the communications system set up by the XRC to 
receive data. But, as is discussed below, these prob- 
lems only partially explain why so little attention 
was paid to the possible need for protective action 
in the earliest hours of the accident. 


At 11 :09 a.m., the EMT reported to the Com- 
missioners by telephone that radioactive iodine 
had been detected offsite and that the sample was 
going to be analyzed. 131 Gilinsky. as he would dur- 
ing subsequent briefings, questioned who was re- 

sponsible for evacuation of the public. (460) This 
important issue had not been addressed seriously 
by any group up to this point, despite the recog- 
nized uncertainty over core covering. 
Davis explained : 

... of course, the licensee will analyze 
them. We will see what the levels are. 
They'll flow in here, and at some point, 
as they begin to increase, they would 
move into emergency measures such as 
evacuation. But we are a long way from 
that from what we've got now . . . And 
that would be through the state. 

GILIXSKY: But I want to understand 
who has responsibility here ? 

DAVIS : Okay. That's through the state. 

GILIXSKY : So it is the licensee dealing 
through the state at this point. (461) 

It is clear from this conversation that on the 
first day of the accident, the EMT did not believe 

m This was the same iodine release Domsife reported. See p. 135. 


the NRC had any role to play in determining the 
need for evacuation. 132 

During a later briefing, at 1 :45 p.m., Gilinsky 
would learn for the first time of onsite readings 
of radioactive iodine above minimum detectable 
levels. He again asked what levels of radioactivity 
would trigger mandatory protective action initia- 
tives : 

GILINSKY: ... At what sort of levels 
do you begin to start talking about mov- 
ing anybody from where they are. 

DAVIS (to Brian Grimes in back- 
ground) : At what sort of levels do you 
begin to evacuate ? 

GRIMES : Evacuate ? Thousands of times 

GOSSICK: Thousands of times higher 
than what we're getting now. 

GILINSKY : I see. Okay. 

DAVIS : 5 Eem whole body, 25 Rem thy- 
roid type numbers. 133 (464) 


The above and subsequent conversations reveal 
a serious deficiency in the NRC's emergency re- 
sponse : its limited knowledge concerning respon- 
sibility for protective action and the correct pro- 
cedures to be followed in determining its need. 
Two points become clear from the questions and 
answers. First, the Commissioners had little under- 
standing of who was responsible for recommend- 
ing or ordering evacuation. Neither they nor EMT 
saw the Commission as having a role. The Com- 
missioners expressed no awareness of the new 
guidelines EPA was in the process of issuing with 
respect to procedures for estimating projected 
doses and evaluating the need for evacuation. 134 
Rather, both they and the EMT were considering 
the need for protective action only in terms of the 
relation between the Protective Action Guide 
(PAG) dose the "projected dose to individuals in 
the population which warrants taking protective 
action" and an actual offsite radiation reading. 
This meant, in effect, that they would only have 
considered evacuation in the event of an actual re- 
lease of radiation at or above a certain level speci- 

fied by the PAG. Neither at this time nor at any 
subsequent time did the Commissioners or the 
EMT use as criteria for evacuation reactor system 
status, present or future. 

The EPA made clear that PAGs were to be used 
"only in an ex post facto effort" 1 * to minimize the 
risk from an event which is occurring or has al- 
ready occurred and that under no circumstances 
were they to be considered as "acceptable doses." 
(466) In fact, according to the EPA, 134 "there is no 
direct relationship between acceptable levels of 
societal risk and Protective Action Guides." (4f>7) 

The EPA specifically recommended that PAGs 
be applied, and decisions of protective action 
reached, in conjunction with ongoing estimations 
of projected doses. (468) The latest EPA guid- 
ance stipulated that these projected doses were to 
be determined on the basis of specific information, 
including "reactor system status" or "plant con- 
ditions." (469) Implicit in the use of this criterion, 
and explicitly stated elsewhere in the Manual, is 
that protective actions such as evacuation can and 
obviously should be taken before the hazard is 
already present. (470) 

Gilinsky has since acknowledged that the NRC 
did not clearly understand the EPA guidelines on 
protective action : 

Question : Was the executive manage- 
ment team, as far as you could determine 
based on your conversations with them on 
March 28, in a mode in which the question 
of evacuation was, one, [solely] a matter 
of state responsibility; and, two, to be 
determined on the basis of the EPA 
[Protective Action] Guides? 

GILINSKY: I think the answer to the 
first part is yes. I don't know that every- 
one was clear on the EPA guidelines. In 
fact, I think the answer is they were not. 
Some people certainly were because there 
had been a joint task force with EPA in 
which they participated. (471) 


That there was a vacuum in responsibility at 
this time concerning determination of the need for 

13S On Friday, the NRC recommended evacuation. Significantly, when that recommendation was made, it stemmed 
from a single measure of radiation released from the plant, a release (1,200 mR/hr) that was actually smaller than one 
on Thursday afternoon (3,000 mR/hr). IRACT personnel were aware of Thursday's reading, but apparently the EMT 
was not because it made no recommendation for evacuation at that time. On Friday, EMT officials recommended evacua- 
tion without consulting their support staff at IRACT. Friday's recommendation had no relation to EPA guidelines on 
projected doses ; it was based on a one-time-only reading from a puff release monitored by a health physicist in a helicopter 
hovering directly above the plant's vent stack. (462) 

33 These PAG dose rate levels are maximum levels at which protective action is mandatory. However, the PAGs also 
specify that lower range levels (1 rem whole body and 5 rem thyroid) are applicable if there are no local constraints on 
protective action. Moreover, even lower levels pertain for "sensitive populations" such as women of childbearing age and 
children. (463) 

M The EPA had held numerous meetings and discussions on the proposed revised guidelines. The NRC participated 
on at least one joint task force relating to them. (465) Therefore, the NRC should have had some familiarity with the 
new guidelines. 


protective action is apparent. The XRC saw itself 
as having no role: it assumed that that function 
was the State'?. Those people within the State re- 
sponsible for protective action said they saw no 
reason seriously to consider the matter throughout 
the day. based on their comparison of the EPA 
Protective Action Guides and the data on offsite 
releases they had available. (472) The State was 
not aware of the new EPA guidelines, nor was it 
ing plant status on its own in order to formu- 
late protective action. 1 ' 3 Moreover, throughout the 
clay, it received assurances from the site that the 
plant was stable. Dornsife never questioned 
whether the reactor core was covered. Based upon 
this belief and the assurances from the utility, the 
BRP told the Governor that no protective action 
was necer-sary. (473) 

Had Dornsife known of the uncertainty of util- 
ity personnel and the XRC officials about the core 
being uncovered, he said he would have asked more 
operational questions, since he believed that ex- 
tended uncovering of the core was a reason to con- 
sider evacuation. (474) 

For it? part, the utility was monitoring onsite 
and offsite levels of radioactivity and focused too 
heavily on them as its criteria for evacuation, 
rather than on plant conditions, (475) It should be 
noted, however, that the utility was confused as to 
actual plant conditions. It is unclear whether the 
utility would have considered its uncertainty a 
plant condition to be used as a criterion in consid- 
ering the need for protective action. 

The lack of understanding on the utility ? s part 
mplified by Dubiel's misreading of a signifi- 
cant indicator of plant conditions the wide dif- 
ferential in temperatures between the hot and cold- 
1 Dubiel was in charge of supervising the 
utility's implementation of the TMI Emergency 
Plan with respect to radiation protection. Yet he 
told Special Investigation staff he was not "overly 
concerned or worried ibout that condition." (476) 
Similarly, he believed (hat because the core flood 
tanks, when activated that afternoon, had injected 
only a limited amount of water, the core was 
covered. 1 - 7 (477) 


The difficulties in communications between the 
State and the utility were the result of an inade- 
quate number of technically qualified State per- 
sonnel and the utility's deficiencies in transmitting 
information, as discussed below. 


A typical example of the disjointed flow of in- 
formation was Lt. Governor Scranton's 10 :55 a.m. 
press conference. The State was receiving the 
same kind of misleading information as the XRC. 
and Scranton expressed optimism about plant 
conditions, just as the XRC had been. He read a 
press release that Paul Critchlow. the Governor's 
Press Secretary, and David Milne. Department of 
Environmental Resources' Press Secretary, had 
helped prepare earlier that morning. It stated that 
"no increase in normal radiation levels have been 
detected." (478) He had been told that at an ear- 
lier briefing; (479) the information was based on 
what Miller had told Dornsife earlier in the morn- 
ing. 118 (480) 

After the statement was read, Dornsife was 
called upon to answer technical questions from the 
press. (481) Just, before the press conference, at 
about the same time the Commissioners learned of 
the release, Dornsife had heard from Thomas 
Gerusky. the Director of BRP. that detectable 
levels of radioactive iodine had been found in 
Goldsboro. Dornsife had not had an opportunity 
to tell the Lt. Governor and other State officials 
before the press conference, but he announced the 
release at this time. Dornsife said the Lt. Gover- 
nor and his staff were both surprised and discon- 
certed. (482) 


Several things contributed to the communica- 
tions difficulties between the utility and the State. 
For one, the State did not have enough technical 
people who were capable of collecting, coordinat- 
ing and disseminating radiation information on a 
24-hour basis. (483) When TMI wanted to relay 
field survey data to BRP. often the only person 
available to take the information was the BRP 
secretary. (484) The utility personnel who had 
been evacuated from Unit 2 to Unit 1 said that 
having to give technical data to a lay person im- 
peded the efficient flow of radiation information to 
BRP. According to Benson, 

Question : When you were talking with 
the State, who were you speaking with *. 

BEXSOX : I don't recall. Sometimes I 
felt the person at the State was not too 
educated in engineering fields. I felt it 
was a secretary, because she would ask 
me. was that "gamma." It was really just 

"* See p. 134 for the implications of this condition. 

m See p. 106. 

117 See p. 130. 

"* Before going to the Capitol Building to brief Scranton, Dornsife had called Miller for more detailed information. 
Miller explained to Dornsife that the high radiation readings reflected "gap activity" caused by a low-level pressure 
transient. ( A gap exists between the fuel jiellets and the Zircaloy cladding surrounding them. Gaseous fission products 
tend to collect in this space. Once the cladding has been breached 'failed fuel" these gases are released into the 


some of their reactions ... I don't feel 
the person was up to par on health physics 
and that sort of thing, more like a secre- 
tary. (485) 

As pointed out earlier, Dornsife was the sole nu- 
clear engineer in the State's emergency manage- 
ment structure. 139 He had to handle several re- 
sponsibilities. Among them, he was supposed to 
assist Margaret Reilly, in charge of environmental 
matters at BRP, with the radiation monitoring 
program. BRP's limited resources were being 
overwhelmed by the sudden influx of radiation 
data. (487) However, Dornsife also was called on 
to assist at briefings and press conferences. Ac- 
cordingly, he was frequently called away from his 
office and had trouble keeping current. As he 

Sometimes Tom [Gerusky] and I were 
off at meetings, and it was difficult to 
after being away from the office to come 
back and get current with what was going 
on which led to the problem of keeping 
current with what the plant status was. 

Reilly said she found the comings and goings 
troublesome, especially because she needed their 
assistance in handling the radiation tasks for 
which she was responsible : 

. . . Dornsife and Gerusky spent a lot of 
time out [of the office] going to the Gov- 
ernor's office, briefings, and things like 
that. I was essentially trying to keep the 
environment thing going, but one thing 
I would like to find a way to avoid in the 
future is having people snapped away 
like that. (489) 


Another factor affecting communications be 
tween the State and the utility was uncertainty 
over what information TMI was to transmit. 
Dubiel said that he tried to convey the general 
tone he picked up from the operations people, in 
addition to relaying radiation information. (490) 
He noted, however, that it was unclear what in- 
formation was to be provided and that the plant 
conditions to be conveyed in the course of making 
offsite notifications were not clearly delineated in 
the Met Ed Emergency Plan or its implementing 
procedures. (491) 

Indeed, the plan focused primarily on measure- 
ments of radioactivity onsite and offsite and dealt 

very little with plant status. (492) Transmission 
of information about plant conditions had been 
largely restricted to the operability of certain 
plant systems at the time of initial notification. 140 
(493) Further, the plan focused on current levels 
of radiation, and not on the potential for worsen- 
ing ones, given changes in plant status. (494) As 
Dubiel explained : 

. . . There is not explicit guidance to 
state that if one believes the conditions 
are going to get significantly worse, or 
whatever, that additional or more con- 
servative protective actions may be taken. 

Throughout the day, the TMI personnel relay- 
ing information to 'BRP were primarily non- 
operations personnel. 141 Sometimes Dubiel, in 
charge of radiological protection for TMI, would 
talk over the Unit 2 phone line, but with the excep- 
tion of Millers conversation with Dornsife, (497) 
Unit 2 operations people were generally not talk- 
ing directly to the State. Furthermore, us was the 
case with the NRC, most of the communication 
was from the Unit 1 control room. 142 (498) 

Dubiel described his contact with the State as 
periodic but not systematic: (499) 

Well, I was periodically talking to them. 
I don't think there was anything that you 
would call systematic, ... I tried to pre- 
sent the status of the plant to the degree 
that I could understand it, to the degree 
that any of us could understand. (500) 

Dornsife told Special Investigation staff that 
early on discontinuity in terms of the TMI people 
with whom he spoke compromised the accuracy 
of the information he was receiving: 

... I was aware that up until I was 
briefed by Gary Miller [around 9 :30 a.m.] 
that I was getting somewhat disjointed 
information ... I was aware I wasn't get- 
ting real accurate continuous informa- 
tion. (501) 

Finally, Dornsife noted that at times it was 
difficult 'for BRP to get through to TMI. BRP 
personnel continuously monitored their end of the 
open line over a speaker phone, but TMI employ- 
ees only picked up their end every 15 or 30 min- 
utes. (502) Sometimes BRP would have to get 
their attention by shouting into the phone or by 
calling an outside line and asking a Met Ed em- 
ployee to pick up the open line. (503) 

133 In addition, Dornsife had worked more than six months in the Burns and Roe home office on the TMI-2 design, 
and then spent more than six months onsite in 1976. During the licensing process for TMI-2, all of Dornsife's time was 
spent reviewing TMI-related licensing documents. (486) 

140 For Miller's assessment, see Addendum 19, p. l.">9. 

"' See also Addendum 20, p. 159. 

'"After the evacuation of Unit 2, nearly all communications were with non-operations staff in 1'nit 1. (4!K>) 



Despite these problems. Dornsife did not ques- 
tion the veracity of the information lie was receiv- 

We think the utility was being perfectly 
candid with us. We were asking questions 
and they were giving us what we still feel 
was accurate information. (504) 

Hut the utility's ability to respond was limited 
by its confusion over plant conditions, the rapidly 
changing parameters and the state of crisis. Gary 
Miller recalled two weeks later: 

One thing . . . that stands out clear in my 
mind, is that as the emergency director 
and station manager during that day. I 
was consistently pulled to the phone by 
senior persons in the State_Government. 
the XRC. and my own management, both 
here and in remote locations. This caused 
the pressure to be intense, as it was very 
hard to concentrate on what I considered 
to be a very serious situation ... I felt 
strong in my obligation to the public and 
to making sure that there was no [radia- 
tion] emissions and that there was evacu- 
ation in plenty of time if that was 
i-equired. But the phone, the pressure, the 
fact that the plant was in a state that I 
had never been schooled in combined to 
make it almost intolerable. (505) 


Meanwhile, the XRC was still having difficulty 
with its internal communications, difficulties that 
did not diminish until late in the afternoon. Be- 
cause of delays in getting briefed on what had 
occurred, in setting up the utility's Emergency 
Control Station in Unit 1, and a shortage of res- 
pirators in Iwth units, an hour-and-a-half had 
passed before two members of the onsite inspec- 
tion team could enter the control room at Unit 2. 
where the accident was being managed. (506) 

Once they arrived in Unit 2. communications 
were reestablished between Region I and the Unit 
2 control room, with the XRC inspectors man- 
ning the link. This link would be XRC head- 
quarters" only one with Unit 2 until 4:30. and. 
again, it was indirect. At 12:30 it finally estab- 
lished a direct, o-way line that incorporated both 
the region and the site, but the link-up at TMI 
wa- to Unit 1. (507) 

Both these communications channels were to 
prove unsatisfactory. For example, for the first 
time, shortly after 12 noon, the XRC asked that 

the regional office inquire about incore thermo- 
couple temperatures. 143 (508) Three-and-a-half 
hours passed before there was any follow-up on 
this question. The XRC headquarters was unable 
to get incore thermocouple readings, the direct 
indicator of core temperatures, and continued to 
receive inaccurate hotleg temperatures, the indi- 
rect measure. 144 (509) 

The XRC's problems in communicating with 
the plant through Unit 1 are illustrated by an ex- 
change at 12:27: 

REGION 1 : What are some of their [the 
operators] ideas that they are using, you 
know, relative to handling this situation, 
you know ? 

have no idea because we are in the other 
control room, you know, that's all going 
on [in] the other unit's control room. 

Erroneous information was transmitted even 
after the three-way communications link was set- 
up. In an early conversation over this line, Chick 
Gallina, one of the XRC onsite inspectors, re- 
ported the following from Unit 1 : 

GALLINA : Okay, the reactor pressure is 
500 [psi]. 

IRACT : Got it. 

GALLINA: Temperature 250 [F]. 

IRACT : Got it, thank you. (511) 

The information was in error. Temperature in 
the primary system at 1:30 p.m. was not 250F: 
only the coldleg approximated this temperature. 
The hotleg was hundreds of degrees higher. 

This incorrect information was quickly trans- 
mitted to the Commissioners. At their 1 :> brief- 
ing. Case and Davis, on the basis of the last er- 
roneous hotleg temperature readings, told Com- 
missioner Gilmsky and several members of the 
Commission staff the following : 

CASE: . . . system pressure has gone 
down from 2000 [pounds] to ... 500. 
Temperature is 250 degrees. Shortly they 
ought to be going on the [cold] shutdown 
decay heat removal system which can be 
activated at 450 pounds [sic] ... So they 
are reaching the point where things will 
get stable in the primary system. 

GILINSKY: Okay. So how do you feel 
about the fate of the reactor ? 

CASE: I feel good. Xow I get the im- 
pression that it ? s stabilized or directly 
approaching a stabilized situation. (512) 

10 See Addendum 21. p. 150. for the text of the conversation. 

"* See Addendum 22. pp. 159-160, for an example of the inaccurate transmission of hotleg temperatures. 



- - - 

NRC STAFF: . . . the hotleg, coldleg 
situation, is there anything new on that? 

DAVIS: As I understand they're both 
reading 250 degrees. (513) 

Throughout the early afternoon, TRACT was 
receiving its information from, and relaying 
questions almost exclusively through, NRC in- 
spectors in the Unit 1 control room or in the re- 
gional office. 145 Region I was having difficulty 
acquiring accurate information from the onsito 
team and transmitting it to headquarters. And 
neither was responding effectively to State needs, 
as reflected by communications among the State 
agencies, or to the public. 


Sometime after 1 :10, the emergency command 
team again decided to depressurize ; on this occa- 
sion, the intent was not to assure the core was 
covered, but rather to reach the point at which 
the low pressure decay heat removal system could 
be used. 

This objective was not widely known within 
the control room at the time. Miller, Ross and 
Rogers, in a meeting two weeks after the acci- 
dent, discussed their perceptions of the motive 
behind the second depressurization : 

MILLER: "VVe were kidding ourselves. 
We were hoping for decay heat, you know 

Ross : That's where we were going . . . 
MILLER: That's [expletive deleted] 
[un] believable ! 

Ross : . . . I was just making a run for 
decay heat. 

ROGERS : No. No. We didn't want to go 
to decay heat, not with those legs full of 

MILLER : Ross and I did. 
Ross : We talked about it. 
MILLKI: : We say that as our . . . 
Ross : . . . our only hope. (515) 


At 1 :50 p.m., Zewe directed the operators at 
the front panels in the control room to open the 
block valve to begin depressurization. As it was 
opened, pressure in the containment shot up dra- 
matically, reaching 28-31 psi, according to a strip 
chart. 147 Since the start of the accident, contain- 

ment pressure had never been greater than about 
4 psi. (516) 

Mehler was in the shift supervisor's office at 
the time. He looked out into the control room: 

What I noticed [was] the people started 
to move a little faster, they were securing 
pumps. So essentially, I thought we had 
an ES again, which is an emergency 
safeguard [actuation], but I didn't know 
whether it was [due to] low pressure [in 
the primary system] or reactor building 
[containment] pressure. I have never 
seen reactor building pressure go that 
high. We went out to see what was going 
on. (517) 

The Spray Pumps Come On 

Mehler left the office and went over to the con- 
trol panels where Zewe, Shift Supervisor Joe 
Chwastyk, Mike Ross and the operators were 
standing. There he saw something he said he had 
never seen before. (518) Indicators showed the 
containment spray pumps were running. He 

... To start spray pumps [in the contain- 
ment building] you need 30 pounds of 


and thev were running. I 

couldn't believe that. I looked at them 
[the spray pump indicators]. I walked 
over and looked at the [pressure strip] 
charts and that's when I saw the line 
straight up and straight down. It looked 
like somebody played with the transmit- 
ter. It couldn't have been that [because] 
we wouldn't have gotten the spray pumps. 

The spray pumps never before had come on at 
Three Mile Island, and by the afternoon the news 
had spread to Unit 1. (520) 

Mehler told Special Investigation staff that 
when he was at the control panel, he was standing 
beside an NRC inspector, whom subsequently he 
said he could not identify. 148 The inspector asked 
why the pumps were running. Mehler explained 
that they were designed to lower containment 
pressure and were activated at 30 psi. (522) He 
pointed out the spike on the pressure chart. Ac- 
cording to Mehler : 

. . . He [the inspector] asked me why I 
was concerned because the spray pumps 

145 IRACT personnel were aware, at the time, of the limitations in the communications system. (."14) 

141 Because of conflicts in the recollections of those present, it is not possible to reconstruct a consistent account of 
what occurred in the control room at 1 :50 p.m. In general, evidence adduced liy the Special Investigation supports the 
findings of the XRC's Special Inquiry Group, which explored the issue in far greater depth than any of the other inves- 
tigations. What follows is a synthesis and summary of a large body of contradictory evidence. 

141 The chart is difficult to read at a glance and has been interpreted variously as having read 28-31 psi. The con- 
tainment is designed to withstand a pressure of 60 psi. 

148 Mehler attempted to identify the inspector for the NRC Special Inquiry Group. His description did not fit any 
of the inspectors in the control room. (521) 


were running. I told him they would only 
start at 30 pounds. I walked over to the 
chart ; 31, it was straight up. I looked at 
it and said, "That's impossible." I showed 
it to him. He didn't know what was going 
on. All he did was write down what we 
told him . . . Then he went back in the 
office after we secured from all that. 
The Pressure Spike 

As noted, there had in fact been a sharp in- 
crease in containment pressure a so-called con- 
tainment pressure "spike," and pressure had gone 
to 28-31 psi. With the containment spray pumps 
running, containment pressure decreased rapidly, 
and in about five minutes the spray system was 
shut off. 

Most of those who were aware of the pressure 
spike attributed it to an electrical malfunction 
in the instrument. (524) 
Zewe said : 

. . . My first reaction was I stepped back 
and looked at it [the pressure spike] and 
said "What in the world was that ?" to 
all that were there ... I conversed with 
the other shift supervisor there and also 
Mr. Ross, who was there, and we con- 
cluded that it was just some phenomenon. 
some voltage spike or transfer that af- 
fected the recorder or pressure indication. 

The spike had resulted from the rapid com- 
bustion of hydrogen within the containment. The 
hydrogen had been produced during the earlier 
period of core uncovering, when core temperatures 
were in excess of 2.500 F. 149 Hydrogen was re- 
leased to the containment when the block valve 
was opened to vent or control pressure. 
A Strange Noise 

There were other symptoms of the burn. Miller, 
Logan. Dubiel. Roge'rs. Flint and a Met Ed en- 
gineer named Walter "Bubba" Marshall also were 
in the control room, but not at the front panels. At 
the time of the pressure spike, they heard a noise 
that was inaudible to the people" at the control 
panels. (527) 

Whether the noise was caused by the hydrogen 
burn has been the subject of considerable post- 
accident analysis. Miller and Dubiel stated they 
commented on it at the time : 

MILLER: ... I was aware of a noise 
. . . and in fact. I believe I asked, "What 
was that?" in fairlv strong language. 

DUBIEL: ... I said, "It sounded like 
the ventilation system." (529) 

According to Ross, Miller then spoke with him: 

. . . [Gary] said, "Did you feel that or 
hear that," something to that effect. I said 
"no." In fact, I remarked to him, "This 
is not the time to get nervous ..." I spec- 
ulated the noise he heard could have been 
the ventilation. He seemed to think it was 
right above him in the duct work. (530) 

To Miller, that explanation seemed reasonable : 

... I did not closely evaluate [it] be- 
cause I was told, I believe, that it was a 
ventilation system which was changing 
modes and did make a thud-type noise 
[when that occurred]. (531) 

Others who heard the noise also concluded it 
was the ventilation system. (532) 

The Special Investigation staff found that the 
noise probably was made by the ventilation system. 
There are butterfly valves directly over the control 
room which could have been thrown shut when the 
emergency safety system was actuated because of 
the high pressure in the containment building: 

Question : Well, if the ventilation sys- 
tem were on at that point in time, and 
ESFAS [emergency safety systems] 
came on, wouldn't that close the damp- 

Ross : That would put it on recirc [illa- 
tion], yes. 

Question : Might that have been what 
he heard ? 

Ross: It's possible, very possible. I 
hadn't even thought about it, but it's very 
possible. (533) 

After hearing the noise and concluding that it 
was the ventilation system. Flint glanced over 
the control panels, where he learned that the opera- 
tors were concerned about a pressure spike. He 
noted that they were checking "the possibility of 
an electrical problem." (534) 

Dubiel also had moved closer, over to the far 
left panel on the console. He overheard the opera- 
tor in front of the spray pump controls indicate 
that they had come on. A short while later he 
looked at the strip chart and noticed the spike. 

Ross, after speaking with Miller, looked over at 
the control panels. He found the same things as 
the others. Since the pressure immediately went 
back to zero, he said, "We didn't try to analyze or 
deduce. We wrote if off.'' (536) 

See p. 108 for a description of the production of the hydrogen. The 2.300 reading is known from the incore thermo- 
couples (see pp. 113-114). However, core temperatures were certainly much higher. The President's Commission esti- 
mated temperatures in the core to have reached 4,350-1,500 F. (526) 


The Symptoms Are Not Understood 

Rogers said that "just about everyone in the 
control area heard the, noise." (537) Zewe said he 
could not understand how anyone could have over- 
looked the other indicators the pressure spike and 
the activation of the spray pumps : 

... I cannot honestly see how . . . 
anyone that was there that had any con- 
cern at all could overlook [those indica- 
tions] because we certainly stopped every- 
thing, and that was the main thing that 
was in progress at that point in time. 


Yet Zewe, Ross, Mehler, and operators at the 
console said they heard no noise, and Rogers, 
Miller and Logan stated they were not aware of 
either the pressure spike or the spray pumps. (539) 
George Kunder and the two NRC inspectors in the 
control room said they were unaware of any of 
these phenomena. (540) The evidence suggests that 
Flint, Marshall and Dubiel were the only ones in 
the control room to have heard the noise and who 
also were aware of both the spike and activation 
of the spray pumps. (541) 

Only Chwastyk and Mehler have said they 
recognized that the spike reflected a real increase 
in containment pressure. Chwastyk was the only 
one who said he concluded it was the result of a 
"hydrogen explosion." (542) 

There is conflicting evidence as to whether Miller 
was made aware of the pressure spike or the actua- 
tion of the sprays before he left for a briefing of 
the Lt. Governor at around 1 :55 p.m. He has con- 
sistently maintained that he was unaware of either 

The contradictory evidence stems in large part 
from testimony and statements made by 
Chwastyk and Mehler that they believed Miller 
was informed of the hydrogen burn or related 
phenomena. Chwastyk testified before the NRC 
Special Inquiry Group (SIG) that his "best 

recollection" was that he told Miller they had 
experienced "some sort of explosion." (543) He 
stated that he believed his conversation with 
Miller occurred in the context of discussing an 
attempt to reestablish a bubble in the pres- 

Miller and Ross both testified before the SIG 
that they were unaware of any such attempt, 
which appears to have led the SIG to doubt 
whether Chwastyk actually mentioned the burn 
to Miller that afternoon. 150 (549) 

Similarly, although Mehler and Chwastyk re- 
called discussing the event with an NRC inspector, 
neither of the two NRC inspectors in the Unit 2 
control room at the time recalled being aware of 
the pressure spike, actuation of the pumps or any 
of the other phenomena related to the hydrogen 
burn. (550) One. James Higgins. who indicated 
he would have been the more likely of the two to 
look at the panel with the strip chart, said his 
first knowledge of the spike came on Friday morn- 
ing. March 30. He noted that at the time he might 
have looked at the strip chart, visible through a 
window approximately four inches wide, shortly 
after the spike was recorded : 

. . . and the spike would have been there 
and I would not have considered it sig- 
nificant. I may have just looked at where 
the reading was at that time, knowing 
that it had been 2 pounds the last time 
I looked at it and it is now reading 1 [to] 
3 pounds ... It was always the type of 
thing where I had a backlog of about 40 
questions I was supposed to answer for 
the people, in Washington. (551) 

There is evidence suggesting that Higgins did 
look at the chart. A Region I "Incident Message- 
form" shows that at 3 :45 p.m.. Higgins reported 
containment pressure of psi to the NRC, five 
minutes before the segment of the strip chart 
showing the spike would have, disappeared from 
view. (552) In his report to the Region he made 

""Rogers told Special Investigation staff that when he was looking at the steam tables (presumably in the after- 
noon ) , it was in relation to an attempt to redraw a bubble in the pressurizer, lending credence to Chwastyk's recollec- 
tion of the timing of his discussion with Miller. (544) 

Mehler told the SIG that he thought he had informed those who were in the shift supervisor's office of the spike, 
and that Ross and Miller were among those present. (545) However, Ross told Special Investigation staff that he was 
out in the control room at the time of the spike, where he discussed the thump with Miller. (546) 

The matter is further complicated by other contradictory evidence. See, especially, NRC Special Inquiry Group, Vol. 
II, Part 3, pp. 138-152. The SIG concluded : 

Based on the weight of the evidence, it appears more probable that if Miller learned of the reactor building 
pressure increase, it was in the context of an indication that was not understood or was discounted as an elec- 
trical malfunction, rather than as a possible hydrogen explosion. If Miller was in fact informed of the pressure 
increase or was aware of it at 1 :50 p.m. on March 28, it is impossible to determine from available testimony 
whether it is most likely that he subsequently forgot the event, or if he simply failed to take account of what 
was happening, or if he has testified falsely about not recalling learning of it at the time. (547) 

On March 21, 1980, the NRC Commissioners directed the Office of Inspection & Enforcement to review the transfer 
of information between the utility and the NRC to determine whether a further civil penalty to Met Ed is justified. 



no reference to a spike, even though it would have 
been visible at the time. 151 

The Hydrogen Burn Is Real 

Days later, when the control room strip charts 
were analyzed, the utility concluded that there 
were too many redundant indications from the 
control room instrumentation for the hydrogen 
burn to have been anything but real. (554) 

The containment building had automatically 
isolated again, the containment sprays had come 
on. emergency core cooling was initiated auto- 
matically at full flow, and the wide-range pressure 
recorder, which is tied to containment pressure, 
had a small spike on it. (555) 

Each of these indications appeared on instru- 
ments in the control room. The evidence suggests 
that confusion in the control room over the source 
of the thump and over persistent electrical prob- 
lems around that time diverted attention away 
from those indicators. (556) 

There is no direct evidence of any deliberate 
effort by utility personnel to conceal from the 
XRO. the State or the public information on the 
hydrogen burn or on uncovering of and damage 
to the core. 

Rather, failure to recognize the hydrogen burn 
and its meaning can be partially explained in the 
context of several other factors. One was a dis- 
ruption in the management of emergency opera- 
tions at the plant when, around 1 :55. Miller and 
Kunder left to go brief Lt. Governor Scranton in 
Harrisburg. 1 " 2 Another involved the incore ther- 
mocouple readings. As noted. Miller and Porter 
had discounted them as unreliable. At the, higher 
temperatures indicated by the thermocouples, fuel 
failure was inevitable, as was the generation of 
hydrogen. Instead, the hottest temperatures of 
which Zewe. for one. was aware were the hotleg 
readings in the neighborhood of 800F. He and 
some of the other control room personnel said, 
therefore, they did not suspect that the threshold 
temperature for a zirc- water reaction (1,600F) 
had been passed. (557) 


At approximately 2 p.m., 10 minutes after the 
spike. Rogers and one of the plant managers were 
in the shift supervisor's office talking by telephone 
with (JPF Vice President Robert Arnold. The 
conversation centered on his concern whether 
the core was covered. Arnold recalled speaking 

with Rogers and someone else, whom he believed 
to have been Logan. (558) This telephone call 
might explain why Rogers and Logan said they 
did not learn of the pressure spike or activation of 
the spray pumps during the first day. 

Arnold was assured by the two the core was 
covered on the basis of the experience with the 
flood tanks. As he recalled : 

. . . They felt at the time that they [had] 
sort of passed the crisis, as it were, and 
the core flood tanks were indicating that 
the core was covered, the system was full 
[of water]. (559) 

Arnold said he questioned their conclusions : 

... I believe I indicated to [them] at that 
time my uneasiness as to whether that, in 
fact, was that reliable an indication and 
told them I thought they ought to review 
very carefully whether or not in fact they 
had the core uncovered . . . certainly my 
impression was both a plant staff member 
and Lee Rogers were confident the core 
was covered. My recollection was the com- 
ment was made they didn't think it had 
ever been uncovered. (560) 


Ross and Miller's attempt to bring reactor pres- 
sure down to the i>oint where the decay heat re- 
moval system could be brought on lasted a little 
over an hour. At 2:34 p.m., pressure fell to 410 
psi, 25 psi below the lowest pressure achieved 
previously. The core flood tanks again injected 
water onto the core. It is estimated that this in- 
jection lasted two minutes and added another 165 
gallons of water to the primary system. Pressure, 
however, not only stopped falling, it rose 10 to 15 
psi, leveling off at 420-425 psi. It remained at that 
level until operators closed the block valve at 3 :08 
p.m., terminating the attempt. (561) The inability 
of the utility to bring pressure lower was not re- 
ported to the NRC for several hours. 183 

Why Pressure Stabilized 

One of the continuing mysteries of the accident 
is why pressure could not be lowered further, even 
with the block valve open. A number of plausible 
theories has been advanced. 

One is that superheated steam was being pro- 
duced while the core was uncovered, tending to 
keep pressure up. 154 (562) 

" There were a number of electrical instruments that malfunctioned at about this time because of a loss of power 
in two electrical busses. 

In explaining to the Special Investigation how he might have looked at the four-inch-wide pressure strip chart 
without noticing where the needle had gone before, Higgins referred to spikes on other monitors caused by electrical 
malfunctions in plant instrumentation. (553) 

' M This is discussed further on p. 144. 

ia See p. 143. 

"" See p. 107 for an explanation of the phenomenon. 


Another, held by analysts at the Nuclear Safety- 
Analysis Center (NSAC), 155 is that the amount 
of cold water being added to the core through HPI 
was sufficient to balance the steaming in the hot- 
legs, causing pressure to stabilize. (563) 

The primary difference between these two theo- 
ries is where they say the interaction of steam and 
water occurred in the core or above it. 

As on previous occasions, control room personnel 
had differing recollections about the purpose of 
depressurization and why pressure would not go 
lower. Rogers said he was not aware that pressure 
could not be taken lower because he was not aware 
that Miller and Ross were attempting to bring on 
the decay heat removal system. 150 Rogers told the 
Special Investigation staff : 

... I am saying that [the fact that pres- 
sure could not be taken lower] was not 
information that was readily known at 
the time [because it was not readily 
known] that we were going to go any 
lower. (564) 

Zewe, on the other hand, attributed the in- 
ability to lower the pressure to saturated condi- 
tions in the primary system : 

... as I recall, we were unable to get be- 
low 410 to 420 pounds . . . We kind of de- 
duced [that was] because of saturation 
pressure in the cooling system at the time. 

Ross, Zewe's supervisor, had no recollection of 
analyzing the difficulty in those terms : 

I was aware we were hot; I don't think 
I was aware that we were actually super- 
heated in the steam. I don't think I ever 
deduced anything about superheated 
steam. (566) 

Ross could not recall any analysis that after- 
noon of why pressure could not be brought lower 
during depressurization : 

... I don't think we ever said, "Why 
won't the pressure go any lower?" I don't 

think we ever sat down and said, "Why 
won't it go any lower?" I don't think we 
ever analyzed that. (567) 


Another related mystery concerns the measure- 
ments of temperatures in the hotlegs during this 
period. These temperatures had fallen dramati- 
cally after the hydrogen burn. Those in the "A" 
loop dropped sharply from about 715F at 1 :45 
p.m. to about 460F by 3:15 p.m. When they 
reached 620F, they came back onscale on the 
control room console monitor. They also fell be- 
tween 3 p.m. and 3 :15 p.m. to the point where 
superheated steam was no longer indicated in the 
hotleg. However, after 3 :15, following closure of 
the block valve, they increased to the point where 
superheated conditions were again indicated. 
They remained there until about 5 p.m. 157 Still 
unresolved is whether this indicated a second un- 
covering of the core or is attributable to other 

In the judgment of Special Investigation staff, 
neither the President's Commission nor the NRC 
Special Inquiry Group has fully explained this 

Analysts at Battelle Columbus Laboratories, 
who performed the analysis for the NRC 
Special Inquiry Group, postulated that the re- 
turn to superheated conditions resulted when 
the hot piping in the system heated the steam 
and gas in the hotlegs to that point. (568) 

According to analysts at NSAC, the tempera- 
ture fluctuations can be explained by the heat- 
ing effect of fission products plated along and 
throughout the primary system fission products 
that were distributed throughout the system, in- 
cluding the hotlegs, following uncovering of and 
damage to the nuclear core early in the morn- 
ing. 158 (569) The effect of such plating would 
be to provide a source of heat for the produc- 
tion of superheated steam throughout the sys- 
tem, and not just in the core. This plating 

155 See "Glossary of Organizations," Appendix F, p. 381. 

""See p. 138. 

57 The correlation between the hydrogen burn and the simultaneous temporary unblocking of the hotlegs has not 
been explained. 

An analysis of the plant data shows that the hotleg temperatures began to converge with the temperatures of the 
coolant in the surge line (the pipe running from the hotlegs to the pressurizer) following the hydrogen burn. By 
3:08 p.m., when the second attempt at depressurization was concluded, both the surge line and the hotleg temperatures 
were at the boiling, or saturation, point. Thereafter, the hotleg again showed superheated steam conditions, while the 
surge line remained superheated or at the boiling point until a later decision to repressurize. 

The hydrogen generated during core uncovery early in the accident is assumed to have accumulated in the hotlegs 
mid to have mixed with the superheated steam there, helping to block the flow into the steam generator and contributing 
to the stagnant, superheated temperatures in the hotlegs. Special Investigation staff theorize that when the pressure 
spike occurred at 1 :oO p.m., after the opening of the block valve, hydrogen gas in the hotleg may have been vented out 
through the pressurizer, allowing flow to return through the hotleg and causing the temperatures to fall. Readings once 
again appeared on the resistance temperature detector, the hotleg temperature measuring device, which for awhile 
may have reflected temperatures of coolant flowing through the core. 

158 See p. 124 for further details on plating. 


could have further heated the water and steam 
in the hotlegs to superheated temperatures. 

Analysts from Battelle Columbus Laboratories 
tincl this theory to be implausible. (570) 


It is also possible that the superheated tem- 
peratures reflected a second uncovering of the 
core. That could explain why the hotleg was 
filled first with saturated steam and then again 
with superheated steam. 

In analyzing the question of a second core un- 
covering, the staff of the Special Investigation at- 
tempted to calculate the rate at which coolant 
was injected onto the core. 

The second depressurizmtion took place from 
!:!.> p.m. to 3:08 p.m. Using the NRC figure 
of an average flow rate of 150 gpm for the 
entire period from 1 :15 p.m. to 5 :20 p.m., 159 along 
with other data, the staff estimated that the 
average net flow rate for the first two hours was 
about 100 gpm of water. (571) This is only 30 
gpm greater than the net average flow during 
the morning hours when the core is known to 
have been uncovered. 

There are. however, several consideration? 
about conditions during this time. First, decay 
heat was lower during the afternoon. Second, 
the amount of water then being released through 
the let-down system is not accurately known. 
Finally, in general it is very difficult to estimate 
and compare flow rates at various times based 
on the available data. Thus, it is hard to use 
the estimated rate of flow to determine whether 
the core was uncovered. 

There is insufficient evidence for the Special 
Investigation staff to conclude which, if any. 
of these theories is correct. 160 Such a determina- 
tion may be possible when the core can be 
examined directly. 


While the calculations of the XRC and Special 
Investigation staff provide only estimates of ac- 
tual flow rates, they still raise the question of why 
utility personnel throttled the amount of water 
delivered to the core to such an extent. 

After the first depressurization. a number of 
utility personnel had concluded (based on the 
minimal injection of water from the core flood 

tanks) that the core never had been uncovered. 
Thus the control room personnel believed they 
could use the make-up pumps to cool the core, even 
at low rates of flow : 

Ross : We felt that we had the core cov- 
ered; we felt that we were cooling the 
core with the High Pressure Injection 
which we maintained throughout this 
time. (573) 

MILLER: That day. I don't feel from 
7 in the morning on[.] that we felt we 
had uncovery or maintained uncovery. I 
don't think "we had the time to think 
about the hours before that and what they 
might have done to the condition of the 
core. We knew they damaged it, and we 
knew the systems we had [High Pressure 
Injection] were the only systems we had. 
and they were working effectively. 1 ' 1 


The transcripts of the NRC tapes show that 
TRACT received another report on hotleg tem- 
peratures at -2 :20 p.m. According to the evidence, 
this was the first accurate one received since the 
beginning of the accident. The temperature was 
said to be 600F, reflecting the return to onscale 
readings on the control room console. 1 * 2 

Even that lower temperature, when viewed in 
conjunction with primary system pressure, indi- 
cated superheated conditions. 

Thirty minutes later a hotleg temperature of 
550F was reported: it also reflected superheated 
conditions. This report was to be the last received 
by TRACT over the next several hours. 


Although the XRC was at last getting accurate 
hotleg temperature readings, it still was not get- 
ting accurate information on natural circulation. 
At about 3:15 p.m., TMI Unit 1 Shift Supervisor 
Greg Hitz informed TRACT that the plant was 
being cooled with natural circulation at a rate of 
3F per hour. (576) In fact, for the next four- 
and-a-half hours, there was little or no heat trans- 
fer by natural circulation through the steam gen- 
erators. 163 (577) More important, there was a pe- 

See Addendum 23. p. 160. for the NRC's calculations. 

* There was also an unexplained slight upward trend in the source range neutron monitors during the afternoon 
hours. However, the monitors do not appear to have liehaved as they did in the morning when there is no doubt the core 
was uncovered. If the core were uncovered again during this period, it was probably a result of depressuriziug without 
providing sufficient high pressure injection to the core. (.TTiJi 

m At this writing. XSAC is in the process of preparing a report, to include estimated high pressure injection flow 
rates during the accident. t ."4 i 

*" See p. 142. text and accompanying footnote. 

There was very minimal natural circulation, not enough to state it was successfully established. 


riod after 3 :08 p.m., when the core was not being 
cooled at all by natural circulation. As noted, the 
hotleg readings indicated the core may have been 
uncovered again : temperatures in the hotlegs re- 
turned to stagnant, superheated conditions, and 
there was no flow through the primary system. 


As described earlier, during the second attempt 
at depressurization, Miller, the Station Manager 
and Emergency Director, and Kunder, Superin- 
tendent of Technical Support, left the plant and 
joined Jack Herbein, Met Ed Vice President for 
Generation, to go to Harrisburg to meet Lt. Gov- 
ernor Scranton. (579) As part of Scranton's ef- 
forts to understand what was happening at the 
plant, he had requested that Walter Creitz, Presi- 
dent of Met Ed, provide an authoritative report 
from someone with firsthand knowledge of plant 
conditions. (580) Scranton's office had not asked 
for any particular individual, and it is unclear 
who decided that Miller was the appropriate per- 
son, despite his role at the plant. Herbein said: 

I felt it was appropriate to take any 
member of the plant staff Avith me for 
response to any detailed questions re- 
garding plant status that might arise in 
our session with the Lt. Governor. 184 


According to Paul Critchlow, the Governor's 
Press Secretary and Communications Director for 
the State, the meeting was strained because it ap- 
peared that Herbein was not planning to tell the 
State, of radiation releases that had occurred 
earlier that day. (584) At a press coTiference at the 
TMI Observation Center prior to leaving for the 
State Capitol, Herbein had not mentioned them. 
(585) Critchlow said that State officials were very 
concerned, as they believed they should have been 
notified so that they could take whatever precau- 
tions were necessary. (586) As it was, they had 
received the information from the Bureau of 
Radiation Protection, which had detected the 

At the briefing, Herbein was confronted on this 
issue. Critchlow described the situation : 

[Herbein] was asked, "Why didn't you 
tell the press ?" He said he had never been 
asked, or the question did not come up, 

or something like that. That immediately 
led to a very quickly developing caution 
on our part in dealing with Metropolitan 

Edison. (587) 

Miller was noticeably upset and said very little 
at the briefing, according to Mark Knouse, Scran- 
ton's Executive Assistant. (588) Miller remem- 
bered spending much of the time in the Lt. Gov- 
ernor's office on the telephone, talking to the Unit 
2 control room where he had left Logan in charge : 

Most of the briefing was done by Jack 
[Herbein]. I was there initially . . . and 
for the most of that meeting I believe I 
was on the phone to the plant ... I was 
probably missing from half of that meet- 
ing. (589) 

Dornsife had not been invited to the 2 :30 p.m. 
briefing and did not learn of it until it was in prog- 
ress, (590) even though he was the only State of- 
ficial equipped to deal with the technical informa- 
tion being provided by the utility's operations 
staff. His absence is even more noteworthy because 
Dornsife accompanied Scranton to a television in- 
terview at 2 p.m. in the Capitol building. He 
then returned to his office across the street. (591) 


At 4 :30 p.m. Scranton conducted his second press 
conference. He wanted to place the population on 
alert without alarming them. (592) He made it 
clear at the press conference that he had become 
disillusioned with Met Ed and was suspicious and 
mistrustful of the utility. (593) 

Until then. Met Ed had been Scranton's primary 
source of information. Having lost confidence in 
the utility. Scranton and his staff sought another 
source of reliable information. They turned to 
Gallina and James Higgins of XRC Region I, who 
would later provide briefings for the Lt. Governor. 

The first such briefing occurred at 8 p.m. Xat 
Goldhaber, Lt. Governor Scranton's Administra- 
tive Assistant, indicated that the State found the 
two NRC officials to be a great improvement : 

... we felt that we were getting more ac- 
curate information, more complete infor- 
mation, and more technically qualified in- 
formation than we had been getting ear- 
lier during the day . . . The presence of 
those specialists from a governmental 
agency lent a certain feeling of confidence 
in the reliability of the data that they 
were providing. (594) 

101 Herbein's recollection differed from those of both Miller and Kunder. Miller told the XRC that Herbein had di- 
rected him to leave the plant for the briefing and that he had expressed his concern about departing. Kunder also re- 
called that Herbein had "wanted Gary to go along and Gary said he wanted me to go along so I could back him up 
with any answers to technical questions." (581) Herbein told the Special Investigation, however, that he "asked Gary 
to release George Kunder" and that Miller "felt [that] if George was going to go, then he ought to accompany me also." 



By 4 p.m., at least one senior XRC official 
Victor Stello believed the information received 
by IRACT in the afternoon indicated the core 
might be uncovered. (595) Since around 1 p.m.. 
IRACT had been receiving hotleg temperatures 
and primary system pressure readings that, if true, 
indicated to Stello that the reactor core was uncov- 
ered. (596) He was still waiting for the incorc 
thermocouple readings he had requested before 
noon to verify the hotleg temperatures and confirm 
or invalidate the indications of superheated steam 
in the hotlegs and whether or not the core was un- 
covered. (597) 


At 4 p.m. IRACT had still not received any 
word on the incore thermocouples. Via the three- 
way IRACT-Unit 1-Region I telephone line, Mike 
WUber, the IRACT Field Communicator, at Stel- 
lo's request, raised the issue again with the regional 
office. Donald Caphton was manning the phone 
there : 

WILBER : Some time ago we asked about 
the incore thermocouples . . . 

CAPHTOX : Xo. I have no information. 

Shortly after this conversation, Caphton had an 
XRC inspector in the Unit 1 control room ask TMI 
Unit 1 Shift Supervisor Greg Hitz to come to the 
phone. IRACT asked Hitz to get the incore ther- 
mocouple readings. (599) 


While Hitz was still on the line, Stello asked to 
speak with him. He raised the issue of the various 
readings and their implications: 

STELLO: Let me bounce a question off 
you. If you really have 550 degrees on that 
hotleg. it's clear that you're getting some 
superheat. If you're getting superheat, 
there's a chance the core could be un- 
covered. The only way you're going to get 
rid of that problem is to find a way to get 
more water in that vessel and get that core 
level back up. Have you thought about 
what problem you've got, if indeed you've 
got 550 degrees on that hotleg at 450 

Hrrz : Yeah, I see what you're say- 
ing. Okav I . . . They ... do have the 
BWST [Borated Water Storage Tank] 
lined up and 175 inches indicated in the 
pressurizer. which means that the core 
would be covered. They've also got the 
core flood tanks floating on that. 

STELLO: But that doesn't necessarily 
mean that they don't have a steam bubble 
in there, 

Hrrz : Oh, okay, you're talking about a 
steam bubble in the core. 

STELLO : Yeah, and if you have a steam 
bubble in the core, you've got the top part 
of the core which could be uncovered 
superheating the stuff coming out of there, 
and that's what's giving vou the reading. 

Hitz said he would raise the issue with his 
counterparts in the Unit 2 control room. (601) 

Hitz also explained to the regional office and 
IRACT that he had spoken to Mike Ross and that 
Unit 2 control room personnel believed that mini- 
mal injection by the core flood tanks meant the 
core was covered. (602) 

Ross recalled speaking with Greg Hitz during 
the day over the telephone connecting the Unit 1 
and Unit 2 control rooms. However, he stated that 
he had had no conversations with Hitz or anyone 
else in which he was told that the XRC wanted to 
know whether the utility had considered super- 
heated conditions in the reactor. (603) He said he 
was certain that Hitz had never mentioned super- 
heated conditions and that he would have remem- 
bered it had Hitz done so. (604) He explained: 

... If someone came in and said we were 
superheated, "you ought to do something,"' 
I think we would have moved in on it. It 
wasn't total bedlam. (605) 

More generally, both Ross and Gary Miller told 
Special Investigation staff that the XRC never 
recommended that day that the utility pursue a 
particular course of action. (606) 

Incore Readings Not Available 

Several minutes later, Hitz spoke with Richard 
Keimig at the regional office on the three-way line : 

Hrrz : First of all, I can't get the incore 
temperatures, okay ? 

KEIMIG : You cannot get them ? 

HITZ : They [the computer] print out 
question marks . . . 

KEIMIG : Okay, what's that mean ? 

HITZ : That means that either the com- 
puter point is messed up okay. 

KEIMIG : Yes. 

Hrrz: Or that the line you know, 
the where you sense it, that line's bro- 
ken or something's messed up with that 
line . . . They're tiying all of them to 
see if we can get any of them to print, 

KELMIG : All right (607) 

Hitz could not recall subsequently who gave 
him that information. (608) It did not correspond 
to, or indicate awareness of, the existence of data 


from equipment set up earlier in the day to ac- 
quire readings of incore temperatures directly 
from the thermocouple leads in the cable room. 
In fact, there is no evidence that anyone had used 
that instrumentation since around 9 a.m. 


At 4 :14 p.m., still questioning the status of the 
core, Stello called Eisenhut and asked him to con- 
tact Babcock & Wilcox to try to get a better un- 
derstanding of the hotleg temperature readings. 

Eisenhut replied that B&W was on the tele- 
phone at that moment but "said they don't have 
enough information to straighten it out either." 
(610) Stello then spoke with Thomas Novak at 
NRR and asked him to consider alternative ways 
of increasing flow through the core to eliminate a 
steam bubble. (611) 

By 4 :24 p.m., statements by EMT members con- 
cerning the status of the reactor were no longer 
as optimistic as they had been throughout the 
morning and early afternoon. Gossick told Ed- 
ward Fay of the NEC's Office of Congressional 
Affairs, "we're still all right, but we still don't 
have this core the way we want it ... we just 
can't say that we're stabilized yet." (612) 

Stello again spoke with Eisenhut, who said that 
the question mark readings for the incore thermo- 
couples were at that moment being raised with 
Babcock & Wilcox. He also told Stello that the 
reason B&W was not concluding that superheated 
steam was present was that their readings on sys- 
tem temperature and pressure were from indica- 
tors in the pressurizer, rather than from the hotleg. 
Stello stated his disagreement with the B&W read- 
ings and gave Eisenhut the readings he had for 
pressurizer temperature, primary system pressure 
and hot and coldleg temperatures. 

Eisenhut soon concurred with Stello's opinion : 

EISENHUT: You got it man. That's it. 
They've got a problem. 

STELLO: You're above saturation and 
the only way that's possible is with su- 
perheat. (613) 

Stello told Eisenhut to give Babcock & Wilcox 
the "right numbers." (614) 


From the EMT office adjacent to IRACT, Gos- 
sick called Acting Chairman Gilinsky, who was at 
Commission headquarters. Gossick began : 

We've got a little update here I think 
we need to give you . . . Let me get 
John Davis and Vic Stello on here to 
give you the situation with the core that 
we've got. We've got I think a significant 
development coming up here. 165 (619) 

With Davis and Gossick on the line, Stello ex- 
plained to Gilinsky his concern about superheated 
steam. Gilinsky responded, ". . . you're saying that, 
in fact, the core may not be covered." (620) He 
asked who was in charge at the plant, but neither 
Stello, Gossick nor Davis knew. (621) Gilinsky 
then asked whether there was "anything we ought 
to do about that beyond having talked'' with Hitz. 

Stello replied : 

The only thing I can think of doing is to 
use our minds and understanding and 
tell them what we think based on the facts 
we hear, and they must make the judg- 
ment. We cannot make the judgment here 
because we're relying on information 
that's from too many different channels. 
I don't have enough information myself 
to decide what I would do. I can only re- 
act to the facts and raise questions for 
them to consider. (623) 

Gilinsky suggested that "the natural way to 
handle it" was to speak to the NRC onsite inspec- 
tion team leader and have him raise the issue with 
the licensee "to make sure that our message gets 
through." (624) He suggested they "talk to the 
superintendent" and said, "I think we probably 
ought to get some feedback." (625) Then the fol- 
lowing exchange took place : 

GOSSICK: We've got to be careful that, 
you know, they don't start asking us what 
to do and then . . . 

GILINSKY: No. They're in charge, and 
we can only offer something that we 
thought of, but they are absolutely in 
charge. There can't be any question about 

"None of the three EMT members have recalled having learned on March 28, 1979, that there was superheated 
steam in the primary system. In an interview with Special Investigation staff, Davis said he did not remember learning 
of superheat, even though the tapes indicate he was a party to the conversation with Commissioner Gilinsky and Stello 
concerning superheat. (615) Gossick recalled Stello's concern, but not that it arose on Wednesday, even though lie placed 
the call to Gilinsky, put Stello on the line to brief the Acting Chairman on "a significant development' 1 having to do with 
"the situation of the core," (616) and participated in the ensuing discussion about superheated steam and core uncovering. 

Case testified on the subject before the Subcommittee. He originally said that he did not know about superheated 
steam until late in the afternoon. He said he had told the Senators during a 5 :10 p.m. briefing on March 28 that "it is 
not completely clear to us that even though the core is covered there might not be a steam bubble someplace in the 
core," (617) because he had learned about the superheated steam. However, later in his testimony, he conceded that 
there was a significant difference between superheated and saturated steam and stated that he was only aware that 
afternoon that there was a steam bubble, not that it was superheated. (618) 


that. And we don't want any confusion 
in anybody's mind, especially in their 

GOSSICK : That's right 

GILIXSKY : And they've got to assess ev- 
en-thing that, you know, that they need 
to assess. 

STELLO: We'll make it very clear to 
them that the decisions that are being 
made are theirs, and that the only thing 
we're doing is asking questions. (626) 


While Stello. Gossick and Davis were speaking 
with Gilinsky. IRACT established its first direct 
communications channel with the Unit 2 control 
room. (627) It was 4:36 p.m.. over 12 hours since 
the accident began. When Stello returned to the 
IRACT office from the EMT office, he asked 
Moseley to raise the issue of superheated steam 
with .fames Higgins. the XRC inspector in the 
Unit 2 control room. While Moseley spoke with 
Higgin? over the telephone, Stello stood next to 
Moseley (Stello's voice was also recorded on the 
tape) :" 

STELLO (to Moseley) : Let's get some- 
body to explain the 580 degree hotleg 

MOSELEY: The high hotleg tempera- 
ture, [do] you conclude that there is su- 
perheat there ?. 

HIGGIXS : The hotleg? 

HIGGIXS: There probably is. I'm not 

MOSELEY : How do we know there's not 
a steam bubble in the reactor itself and 
what the level is in the reactor; is all the 
fuel cool I 

HIGGIXS : They're not positively certain 
that there's not a bubble in the reactor 
vessel . . . they're not 100 percent certain. 

Higgins explained, as Hitz had. the command 
team's interpretation of the partial injection by 
the core flood tanks. (629) He also said they had 
ruled out any attempt at rapid depressuriza- 
tion 1S6 the step which Stello and Moseley had 
believed would have to be taken. (631) 
Stello. Moseley and Higgins continued : 

STELLO : Does the licensee understand 
- i degrees in the hotleg? 

MOSELET : It means that it is superheat ; 
they concede that, 

STELLO : They agree to that I 

MOSELET : Yeah. 

STELLO: Do they have any way to ex- 
plain superheat without the core being 
uncovered 3 

MOSELET: Not to my satisfaction, no. 

STELLO : Did you ask ? 

MOSELET (to "Higgins) : Have you pur- 
sued with them this question you and I 
talked about a little earlier, and that is, 
how do we know that the core is not un- 
covered, partially ? 

HIGGIXS: We have talked that over. 
Actually, most of the discussion on that 
was between the people here on site 
the unit superintendent Bob Arnold . . . 
the vice president of Met Ed in a dialog 
of about 20 minutes or so and I listened 
to the whole discussion. The final result 
of it was that they felt very confident 
that the core was covered, based on indi- 
cations when they were blowing down 
and the core flood tanks and the interac- 
tions there, although they could not real- 
ly give assurance of 100 percent that the 
core was covered. 

MOSELET: Well, the core flood tank 
story is not convincing to me. (632) 

Moseley then turned the phone back over to the 
field communicator. 

At the height of XRC concern over uncovering 
of the core. Stello and Moseley were on the phone 
with an XRC inspector in the Unit 2 control room. 
They learned that the utility agreed there was 
superheated steam in the hotlegs, but was never- 
theless "very confident'' the core was covered. 1 " 
The evidence the TMI emergency command team 
gave to support its belief the core was covered 
was the spurious indicator of limited injection of 
water from the core flood tanks. Although Stello 
and Moseley questioned the basis for the utility's 
lack of concern, neither of them asked for further 
feedback from the utility, as Gilinsky had sug- 
gested. 188 They had the opportunity to do so. Since 
they had a direct line to the Unit 2 control room, 
they could have raised the issue directly with Mil- 
ler* (or for that matter any of the other utility 
representatives), in keeping with Gilinsky's sug- 
gestion that they speak with the plant superin- 
tendent. Thus, the XRC left hanging the crucial 
question of whether the core was uncovered. 

" Stello. Moseley and other XRC officials said they believed the utility should open the block valve and leave it open. 
causing pressure to plummet to the point where the decay heat removal system could be initiated. They did not know 
that in the last attempt to depressurize. pressure had, on its own, stabilized at a point above that for low-pressure decay 
heat removal. A more detailed discussion of this issue can be found in the staff report by the President's Commission. 
"Report of the Office of Chief Counsel on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission." (6301 

"~ See p. 141. 

lra See p. 146. 


The NRC Special Inquiry Group, after investi- 
gating this particular matter, found : 

There is no record of Stello having com- 
municated this message [about super- 
heated steam and an uncovered core] di- 
rectly to the Unit 2 control room. . . . 

As the tapes show, Stello did raise the issue with 
the Unit 2 control room within minutes of his con- 
versation with Gilinsky. The evidence suggests 
that the Special Inquiry Group simply accepted 
Higgins' recollection of the accident and was un- 
aware of the contradictory evidence on the tapes. 169 
Higgins' recollection was not supported by the 
evidence uncovered by this Investigation. 


About 5 :10 p.m., EMT members Case, Gossick 
and Davis took part in a conference call with 
members of the Subcommittee on Nuclear Regula- 
tion and Senators H. John Heinz, III and Rich- 
ard S. Schweiker of Pennsylvania. The Senators 
had requested a briefing on the status of the re- 
actor. Case summarized the various points of 

. . . The water level is above the core and 
is showing in the pressurizer level which 
is above the core. On this basis the com- 
pany believes the core is covered and there 
is no problem of further release of fission 
products. It is not completely clear to us 
that even though the core is covered there 
may not be a steam bubble someplace in 
the core which would result in inadequate 
cooling to that portion of the core. We are 
raising this question with the licensee, 
suggesting that if this is still going on, 
it might oe worthwhile to consider just 
lifting the safety relief valve and blowing 
the pressure down rapidly [depressuriz- 
ing] in order to get this lower pressure 
system on the line. The pressure has been 
hung up around 500 pounds for the last 
four or five hours. Slowly, slowly coming 
down. But in the meantime, this portion 
of the core may be overheating so that 
is giving us some concern at this point in 
time. (634) 

Case described two possibilities : either the core 
was completely covered or some small percentage 
was uncovered. He did not point out that if the 
core was uncovered, there were no direct means 
at the plant for determining to what extent. (635) 

The Senators asked if there was any need for 
evacuation. Davis responded that offsite radiation 
levels "do not at this time indicate evacuation." 

(636) There was no mention of the uncertainty as 
to the degree to which the core might be uncovered 
and that that in itself was a reason for considering 
protective action. This was because, as noted, the 
NRC was focusing on actual radiation levels and 
not on plant conditions in considering the need for 
protective action. 

The NRC's Role Discussed 

The Senators then asked if the situation had 
been stabilized. Case told them it had not and that 
it might be a long time before stability would be 
reached. The following exchange took place : 

HART: Who determines the course of 
action ? 

CASE : The licensee. 

HART: Under all circumstances? 

CASE: Under all circumstances, unless 
it gets to the point that if we think we 
know enough here, which is very, very 
difficult for us to conclude, that we ought 
to tell them to do something. Now we 
have direct communications through tele- 
phone into the control building of Doth of 
the units. 

HART : How long will you wait ? 

CASE : Pardon me ? 

HART : How long might you wait before 
you'd override them. 

CASE : Well, it would be at least another 
hour or so, I would think, Senator. (637) 

Radiological Releases Reported 

At about 5 p.m., the XRC issued its second 
press release. It stated in part : 

Low levels of radiation have been meas- 
ured off the plant site. The maximum con- 
firmed radiation reading was about three 
milliroentgens per hour about one-third 
mile from the site. At one mile, a reading 
of one milliroentgen per hour was meas- 
ured. It is believed that this is principally 
direct radiation coming from radioactive 
material within the reactor containment 
building, rather than from release of 
radioactive materials from the contain- 
ment. (638) 

The Information Is Wrong 

The tape transcripts show that by 4 p.m. 
IRACT had become aware of a 70 milliroentgen 
per hour reading at the north gate to the plant. 
They also show, when compared to Met Ed docu- 
ments, that between 4 and 4:30 NRC inspectors 
in Unit 1 had incorrectly transmitted as an onsite 
measurement, a 50 milliroentgen per hour offsite 
reading taken opposite the north gate on Route 
441. (639) 

' See Addendum 24, p. 160, for the text of Higgins' interview with the Special Inquiry Group. 


With regard to the statement in the 5 p.m. 
press release that the maximum confirmed offsite 
readings were believed to be "principally direct 
radiation," Sniezek, who was chiefly responsible 
within IRACT for analyzing radiological infor- 
mation, indicated that he did not recall having 
discussed the question of direct radiation versus 
releases in conjunction with the 5 p.m. press 
release. 170 He said that if he had been asked, he 
believed he would not have known whether the off- 
site radioactivity was more the result of one than 
the other : "I wouldn't know which one principally 
it was." (640) 

There are some direct measurements that can 
serve as a check on whether a radiation dose is at- 
tributable to direct radiation or to an actual re- 
lease. If the radiation is the result principally of 
direct radiation, then the dose measurements 
should be somewhat constant in all directions from 
the containment at a given distance, and they 
should not change substantially unless the radia- 
tion inside the containment changed substantially. 
The information received by IRACT prior to 
the issuance of the 5 p.m. press release was not 
consistent with either condition. Rather, IRACT 
was told that radiation levels inside the contain- 
ment were constant ; the containment dome moni- 
tor read 6,000 R/hr from 10 a.m. onward. Yet 
between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. dose measurements at 
a given distance at the north gate went from 30 
to 70 to 50 to 1 milliroentgens per hour. All this 
was known to IRACT prior to 5 p.m. (641) 

With respect to the general accuracy of the press 
releases issued by the KRC on March 28, Joseph 
Fouchard. Director of Public Affairs for the NRC, 
stated. ". . . we were using the best information we 
had in the Incident Center when we wrote these. 
We were not trying to maximize or minimize the 
situation. We were trying to tell it as we believed it 
then existed." 171 (643) 

More Incorrect Information 

In the late afternoon IRACT also gave misin- 
formation to Executive Branch agencies, including 
the White House and the Department of Health, 
Education and Welfare. Between 4 and 5 p.m. 
Bernard Weiss, the IRACT Communications Offi- 
cer at the Response Center and the person respon- 
sible for briefing these organizations, reported to 
Clark W. Heath of the Chronic Disease Division 
at HEW's Center for Disease Control: "It was 
really never a problem with regard to loss of water 

and exposure to the core . . . there was never a prob- 
lem of keeping the core covered." (644) 

Between 5:30 and 6 p.m., Weiss discussed the 
same issue with the White House Situation Room. 
He reasserted that "there was never a problem with 
regard to keeping the core covered." (645) 

In fact, IRACT, from whom Weiss was receiv- 
ing his information, had, by 4:30 pjn., spoken 
with the Unit 2 control room. IRACT person- 
nel were following up on the very concerns that 
Weiss was telling the HEW and the White House 
were not at issue that there were indications that 
superheat in the primary system had been prevent- 
ing adequate circulation through the core, leading 
to possible uncovering. 

Weiss, in explaining how he obtained the infor- 
mation that he passed on to these agencies and in- 
dividuals, said the data had gone through IRACT. 
where it was evaluated, and then through EMT. 
(646) "At some point it was said that we ought to 
update the Commissioners on what is current at 
this time." (647) He said he could not recall who 
told him to tell the agencies that the core was not 

Dudley Thompson, Weiss' superior, said that 
Weiss "may not have been quite as current [on de- 
velopments at the site] on a minute to minute 
basis." (648) 

Asked to explain the apparent discrepancies be- 
tween what was known at the NRC and what was 
being transmitted to other agencies through Weiss, 
Case said he did not believe Weiss was "deliber- 
ately misinforming" anyone. Case acknowledged 
that Weiss' late afternoon report to the White 
House Situation Room "simply wasn't accurate." 1 
(649) His explanation was that the report resulted 
from the normal confusion that arises in an emer- 
gency. (650) 


On March 28, the NRC never did explore the 
need for evacuation or take steps to override the 
licensee with respect either to its diagnosis of the 
severity of the accident or to actions that should 
be taken to regain control of the reactor. 172 Accord- 
ing to Commissioner Bradford, one reason evacu- 
ation was not addressed was that the Commission 
"simply did not have the information on what was 
going on inside the reactor." (651) While that cer- 
tainly was the case in the morning, it was not so 
in the afternoon. 

1TQ See p. 158. 

71 The NRC's Special Inquiry Group concluded : "To anyone acquainted with reactor physics, the idea of a contain- 
ment building so full [of] radioactivity that it is penetrating those 4-foot concrete-and-steel walls with enough intensity 
to be picked up by monitors more than a mile away well, it is not only grossly in error, but ridiculous in retrospect." 

175 It is now believed that if the utility had pursued the strategy of rapid depressurization favored by the XRC, an 
even more serious condition could have developed. 


Chairman Gilinsky explained to the Subcom- 
mittee why he took no steps to initiate discussions 
on protective action with the other Commissioners 
or with the State after he learned of Stello's con- 
cern that the core was uncovered : 

Let me tell you what was on my mind. 
The comparison that I made continually 
was with the temperatures I'm familiar 
with from the rules on emergency cooling 
systems, which require that tempera- 
tures in the reactor core stay below ap- 
proximately 2,000 degrees, 2,200 degrees, 
during the course of [a] loss of coolant 
accident. This is based on the fact that 
oxidation of the cladding becomes rapid 
at about 1,600 degrees. So mentally, I 
was making this sort of a comparison, 
throughout the day in fact. And none of 
the temperatures that I had heard ap- 
proached anything like those numbers. 

Now, I must say that I asked how we 
could be getting fuel failure if we were, 
in fact, nowhere near such temperatures, 
and I remember the response, I don't re- 
member who gave it, that one could get a 
certain amount of fuel failure, pin holes 
in [the] fuel, if the fuel [saw] something 
like a thousand degrees for sometime. 

So clearly in my mind I had some sort 
of picture of either pockets of steam or 
some form of inadequate cooling. But it 
did not, to my mind, at least at that point, 
call for further steps with regard to evac- 
uation. . . . (652) 

Gilinsky said he recalled that the discussions 
centered on the extent of fuel failure, which was 
then estimated to have been one percent, rather 
than on core uncovering. (653) 

This figure of one percent fuel failure, which 
proved to be wrong and which suggested far less 
serious conditions than existed, was used repeat- 
edly not only in statements to the press that eve- 
ning, but in testimony by the Commissioners the 
following day before the House Subcommittee on 
Energy and the Environment. (654) It is unknown 
where the figure came from. 

One possible source was a previous NRC esti- 
mate that certain "design basis" accidents would 
result in a failure of one percent of the fuel, 
which would in turn produce an iodine spike. 173 

Yet, even at this point the NRC had evidence 

showing that the figure of one percent was incor- 
rect. As early as 4 p.m. on Wednesday some 
NRC staff had ruled that figure out as inaccurate. 
An NRC official in IRACT, and another in the 
main NRR offices, had discussed some NRC calcu- 
lations based on the primary coolant sample the 
utility had drawn and analyzed earlier in the 
morning. It showed more radioactive iodine than 
would be found in the coolant as a result of an 
iodine spike. (657) It was evidence of fuel failure 
greater than one percent and suggested greater 
damage to the core. 

The NRC has since estimated that during the 
first day, over 90 percent of fuel had failed, that 
the entire inventory of radioactive iodine in the 
core was released to the coolant, and that the ge- 
ometry of the core was disarranged. (658) 


The Commissioners played a relatively minor 
part on March 28, notwithstanding their pre- 
scribed policymaking function. As Eisenhut com- 
mented, "To the best of my knowledge [the Com- 
mission] really played no firm policy direction 
role on Wednesday." (659) 

The limited participation of the Commissioners 
was not surprising, in retrospect. The presumption 
had always been that accidents would be of such 
short duration, there would be no time for the 
Commissioners to become actively involved. 174 
They were clearly unprepared to do so. 

Second, neither the Commissioners themselves 
nor the senior emergency response staff saw the 
Commissioners as having an operational role. 
IRACT's Stello noted, 

. . . my view was the decision [to direct 
the licensee] would be made by EMT if 
needed, and I didn't think very much 
about the Commission. If we needed to 
decide something, my view was that [a] 
decision would be made and inform the 
Commission rather than asking. (660) 

Case, an EMT member, told Special Investiga- 
tion staff that he felt the Commission members 
should ". . . keep out of it ... I don't think the 
five-man body, whomever they may be, is the type 
of organization you want in an emergency." (661) 
He said the Commissioners' role was "delibera- 
tive" and that they should not be involved in 
handling emergencies. (662) 

The Commissioners themselves stated that it 
was appropriate for them to rely on the emergency 

3 "Design basis" accidents are hypothetical events analyzed by the NRC in terms of plant response and of safety 
features required to handle the accident. Some design basis accidents could result in damage to the Zircaloy cladding 
on the fuel rods. Because of the damage, some radioactive iodine, a fission product normally contained by the cladding, 
would be released to the coolant. The release would show up as an increase in radioactive iodine, referred to as au 
"iodine spike." The size of the spike would be indicative of the amount of failed fuel. (655) 
m See "Prior to the Accident," pp. 82-83. 


response organization for technical decisions. 
Commissioner Ahearne commented : 

As far as the issue of what is the role 
of a Commissioner during emergency re- 
sponse, my understanding of it prior to 
and certainly during [the accident] was 
that the way the NEC system was de- 
signed was for the senior technical people 
in the agency to be responsible for moni- 
toring and taking whatever action might 
be necessary as far as the technical issues. 
Commissioner Gilinsky noted : 

generally speaking, the technicaJ, 

minute-by-minute decisions and recom- 
mendations have to be handled by our 
staff. And the Commissioners have got to 
deal with things that are more general in 

nature . . . but the technical questions have 
got to be examined by the staff, and it is 
they who have to be in direct touch with 
the licensee as well as counterparts in the 
State. (664) 

Nevertheless, there were actions the Commis- 
sioners 'believed, in hindsight, they should have 
taken. As noted, Chairman Hendrie spent the first 
day of the accident at a hospital with his daughter 
and was not heavily involved in events on the first 
day. He subsequently said that "it wasn't very ef- 
fective for me not to be there ; I should have gone 
to the response center." (665) Commissioners Ken- 
nedy, Bradford and Gilinsky thought the issue of 
evacuation would have been formally addressed 
by the Commission on Wednesday morning had 
they had information available to the utility. 


At about 4:30 p.m., Jack Herbein had arrived 
at Unit 2 after briefing the Lt. Governor in Harris- 
burg. He decided that because of the unsuccessful 
attempts to depressurize and bring on the decay 
heat removal system, the control room operators 
should repressurize again, with the aim of restart- 
ing the reactor coolant pumps. Herbein discussed 
the matter with GPU Vice President Robert 
Arnold, who was at GPU headquarters in Read- 
ing, Pennsylvania. Arnold concurred. (667) 

At some point between 5 and 6 p.m., Her- 
bein, concerned that the core might not be covered, 
ordered the operators to stop depressurization, 
raise reactor system pressure and try to start the 
coolant pumps. (668) At 6 p.m. Higgins informed 
XRC headquarters of this strategy. (669) 

This time repressurization was successful. The 
bubbles in one loop of the primary system col- 
lapsed, and one of the pumps was started at about 
7 :50 p.m. It forced coolant through the core and 
allowed heat to be removed through the steam gen- 
erator. Thus, approximately 16 hours after the 
accident started, circulation through the core and 
heat removal through a steam generator were 
achieved. Relatively stable plant conditions were 
finally established. The immediate crisis had 


A considerable amount of the analysis since the 
accident has focused on whether different se- 
quences of events could have posed greater danger 
to residents of the surrounding community. The 
answer depends, to a great extent, on the prob- 
ability that the accident could have resulted in the 
melting of the reactor core or in offsite releases 
of hazardous levels of radioactivity. 

The actions of plant operators and managers 
did lead to substantial uncovering of the reactor 
core. Calculations done for the NRC Special 
Inquiry suggest that the core would have begun 
to melt within an hour after the block valve 
was closed if plant personnel had failed to close 
it and continued to limit the flow of high pres- 
sure injection. (670) 


The President's Commission also looked at al- 
ternative sequences of events. (671) It concluded: 

No single additional operator action or 
equipment failure that is tied to the 
actual sequence of events at TMI would 
have led unequivocally to large scale 
fuel melting throughout the core or sig- 
nificantly larger releases of fission prod- 
ucts to the environment. (672) 

Contrary to what a recent report by the 
House Subcommittee on Energy Researcn and 
Production concluded, this finding leaves open 
the possibility that multiple incorrect operator 
actions minimal or no high pressure injec- 
tion, accompanied by no heat sink and con- 
tinued let-down could have produced those con- 
ditions. (673) Indeed, the staff of the Presi- 
ent's Commission identified four possible 
"serious cases" in which large-scale fuel melting 
could have occurred. (674) However, when they 
studied the radiological consequences of these 
four cases, they concluded that even in those 
cases, containment integrity probably would not 
have been violated. (675) The President's Com- 
mission also found that there would have been 


no substantial radioactive releases from the plant 
even if the core had melted through the contain- 
ment floor because the bedrock foundation prob- 
ably would have contained the radioactive debris. 
(676) It also concluded that the release of fission 
products would have been greater than actually 
occurred, although not by a "large factor." (677) 


There are a number of problems with the "what 
if" analyses of the NRC Special Inquiry Group 
and the President's Commission, including the 
degree of uncertainty that attends all such studies 
of hypothetical events. The first implicitly as- 
sumed that a core melt following initial un- 
covering of the core in the morning would have 
been accompanied by isolation of the containment 
to prevent the escape of radiation. (678) In fact, 
the utility consistently bypassed containment iso- 
lation throughout the day in order to use the 
make-up and let-down systems. (679) The let- 
down system was leaking; this leakage was pri- 
marily responsible for the actual releases of radio- 
activity outside the containment and into the aux- 
iliary building and then to the environment. Had 
a core melt occurred while containment isolation 
was bypassed, the releases to the environment 
through the auxiliary building pathways would 
have been greater during the period between the 
beginning of the melting and the eventual rup- 
ture of the reactor vessel. 

An important issue that is unaddressed by these 
studies is whether the operators, based on the 
available i nstrumentation, would have realized 
that the core was melting down, and whether melt- 
ing would have required protective action at a time 
when no one was prepared for it. 

Of these analyses, only the President's Com- 
mission addressed the leaking let-down system as 
a pathway for releases of radioactivity from the 
containment building. It did so, however, in 
terms of what actually occurred, rather than in 
relation to a hypothetical sequence of events lead- 
ing to a core melt. The President's Commission 
concluded on this basis that greater, but not sig- 
nificantly greater, releases would have resulted 
from a core melt at TMI. (680) 

The President's Commission relied on a two- 
part qualitative argument in reaching this finding. 
First, it had studied the actual behavior of the 
radioactive iodine during the accident and its re- 
lease through the auxiliary building. Its prelimi- 
nary finding was that little radioactive iodine was 
released, much less than would have been pre- 
dicted based on the scientific literature. (681) 

The staff of the President's Commission issued 
the caveat that "anyone who thinks he thoroughly 
understands why iodine did what it did during the 
accident is following a simplistic approach. . . ." 
(682) They had been unable to make quantitative 
calculations of the likely magnitude of releases 
accompanying a hypothetical core melt. (683) In 
part, this was because they were uncertain about 
the chemical conditions in the reactor coolant sys- 
tem at TMI and how those had affected the actual 
releases of iodine, although their studies showed 
that the limited releases related closely to chemical 
conditions (such as the ph of the coolant) . To con- 
clude on the basis of what happened at TMI that 
limited releases would have resulted from a hypo- 
thetical core melt assumes that the same (un- 
known) chemical conditions would be present. 
This in turn assumes that during a core melt oper- 
ators would have access to a reactor coolant sam- 
ple and would again fortuitously misread the 
boron concentration, as the TMI operators did a 
misreading that had led them to alter the chemis- 
try of the coolant, coincidentally resulting, it now 
appears, in lower releases. (684) 

Second, at TMI the inventory of volatile fission 
products (685) was mostly released to the coolant 
during the initial uncovering of the core. Given 
that fact, the President's Commission argued that 
the release of the remaining fission products that 
would occur with a melt would not have produced 
significantly larger releases than actually oc- 
curred. (686) 

The Special Investigation staff found that this 
argument neglected the uncertainties of condi- 
tions in the reactor coolant system. The hypo- 
thetical cases analyzed by the President's Com- 
mission did not adequately consider many factors 
that need to be addressed in predicting whether 
melting would have caused larger release rates 
through the auxiliary building and, if so, how 
large those might have been. 

Staff of the President's Commission used the 
Commission findings to assert that the "health ef- 
fects" accompanying a core melt would have been 
unobservable. (687) This conclusion does not take 
into account either the accompanying uncertainties 
or the psychological impact the accident had on 
the local community. 

The report of the House Subcommittee used the 
various "what if" analyses to conclude that "there 
was always a reasonable margin of safety during 
the accident at TMI." (688) For the reasons cited 
above, it is difficult to reach such a conclusion with- 
out postulating operator actions of doubtful 
probability and without setting aside the issue of 
psychological impact. 



Addendum 1 

Ros? was referring to a precaution contained 
in TMI-2 operating procedure Xo. 2101-1.1. It 

states : 

1.2-01 Absolute maximum pressurizer at 
any time the reactor is critical is 385 
inches, [emphasis added] 
NOTE : This water level is the maximum 
RCS [reactor coolant system] inventory 
used in the safety analyses for reactor 
building overpressure following a 
LOCA. It is also the maximum level at 
which the system can accommodate a tur- 
bine trip without causing the pressurizer 
safety valves to open. 
1.2-04 The pressurizer must not be filled 
with water to indicate solid water condi- 
tions (400 inches) at any time, except as 
required for the system hydrostatic tests. 

Addendum 2 

Zewe also noted that at one point he thought that 
some of the circuit breakers for the heater in the 
pressurizer had blown and that, as a result, the 
pressurizer had ". . . lost some heater capacity 
and we just couldn't recover pressures as fast as 
we should." 1T5 (690) He asked one of the control 
room operators to have an auxiliary operator 
check the heaters. (691) However, according to 
Zewe : 

I'm not sure whether he did check it and 
report to the operator. The operator 
didn't tell me. I don't remember any de- 
tails of it. and I really didn't pursue it 
any further. (692) 

Addendum 3 

The plant 's emergency procedures gave them no 
clear guidelines for making that decision, since 
the procedures assumed that RCS pressure and 
pressurizer level would trend in the same direction 
during a LOCA. In Ed Frederick's words: 

A combination of high T h I17Sl and low 
pressure and a full pressurizer was 

enough. . . . We might not as well have an 
emergency procedure book once you see 
something like that. There's nothing that 
you can figure out from that point. (693) 

In Frederick's words, the high pressurizer level 
and low RCS pressure were ". . . confusing indi- 
cations that don't dictate anv particular course of 
action." (694) 

Addendum 4 

The operators needed to open a valve that would 
allow feedwater to bypass the malfunctioning 
condensate polishers, (695) but the remote con- 
trol switch in the control room was not working. 
(696) In addition, the water level in the condens- 
er hot well was excessively high, 1 " which, if not 
corrected, would preclude use of the main feed- 
water system. (697) 

Addendum 5 

Bryan said that when the operators first con- 
cluded that the rupture disc had blown. ". . . we 
figured the safety lifted on the pressurizer and 
blew the rupture disc you know, just overpres- 
surized it.*' (698) However, in another interview 
Bryan contradicted himself. ". . . [I] never 
thought that the code safety valves opened/' (699) 
Bryan added that since he knew the reactor cool- 
ant system pressure had not gone over 2,355 psi, 
he did not believe the code safety valves had 
lifted. 178 (701) 

Addendum 6 

Zewe attributed the symptoms to excessive water 
in the drain tank : 

I knew at this point that we either had the 
RC [reactor coolant] drain tank's relief 
valve open or the rupture disk had 
blown (702) 

According to Zewe, an alarm indicating that the 
sump pumps were running had been activated at 
about 4:08, 8 minutes into the accident, but the 
operators did not notice it because of the backlog 
on the computer (703) which was printing out 

171 Pressurizer heaters are normally used to enlarge the steam bubble in the pressnrirer by heating the water in 
the pressurizer. turning some of it to steam. This in turn increases the pressure in the system. 

! *Th is hotleg temperature. 

' The condenser hot well is where steam condenses after passing through the turbine. If the level is high, it will 
inhibit further condensation of steam. 

" The code safety valves are designed to lift at 2,435 psi. (700) 


- 80 - 11 

the alarms. In Zewe's opinion, "I believe that the 
indication [for the reactor coolant drain tank] we 
have available in the control room is insufficient. 
. . ," 179 (705) 

Addendum 7 

According to Zewe, 

I felt certain that the water that was 
going into the reactor building sump was 
from the RCDT [reactor coolant drain 
tank] and also that's also where the [in- 
crease in containment] pressure was 
from. (706) 

Implicit in Bryan's comments in one interview 
is that he thought the same things. He said that 
at one point the operators thought a steam line 
was leaking into the containment, but that ". . . we 
went right back to the assumption that we had a 
rupture disc blown in the drain tank." 18 (707) 

Addendum 8 

Operators, in using emergency procedures, may 
read from them or refer to them from memory 
(operators are required to memorize the pro- 
cedures). However, according to Scheimann, op- 
erators do not necessarily refer directly to the 
procedures, especially in the early stages of an 
accident. Then they tend to focus on the symptoms 
and what response might correct it : 

. . . [The operators] don't just sit there 
and say, "Oh, mercy sakes, I got a loss of 
pressurizer level there", or "Mercy sakes, 
look, pressurizer pressure is going down. 
I have got to refer to emergency proce- 
dure blah-blah-blah." Your train of 
thought, just doing work like that in a 
situation of that nature, you just see a 
symptom and you try to correct for what 
that symptom's problem is. ... (708) 

Frederick described how operators determine 
which procedure is relevant: 

FREDERICK : The thought process is ac- 
tually not one of trying to eliminate each 
emergency procedure that exists. What 
you are trying to do is assemble a certain 
amount of symptoms that you can apply 
to an individual emergency procedure. 

Question : But how do you know which 
ones to look for ? 

FREDERICK : We don't look for particu- 
lar symptoms; you wait for them to be 
evident, and you make a list of them in 

your mind, and you try and decide which 
of those is important and how they relate 
to the emergency procedures. In other 
words, not only the symptoms but the 
order in which they appear will steer you 
to a different emergency procedure. (709) 

Frederick added, 

Usually at the beginning of a transient 
like that the emergency procedures that 
you use later on are not related to the 
original problem. This is exactly what 
happened to us. We had a loss of feed- 
water and many of the emergency pro- 
cedures we might have used were not at 
all related to feedwater. And you had to 
pick up the symptoms along the way. 

Addendum 9 

The control room personnel considered the first 
two scenarios a steam line rupture or a primary 
tube to secondary system leak to be plausible be- 
cause of problems in the "B" steam generator. 
They had observed both low pressure and high 
level on the secondary side of the generator. 

At 5:27 a.m. they isolated the "B" steam gen- 
erator. 181 (711) The control room personnel dif- 
fered as to why. Most recalled that they explicitly 
considered the possibility that the accident in- 
volved a steam leak. Faust, Zewe, Bryan, Schei- 
mann and Kunder all thought a steam leak could 
have been contributing to the rising pressure in 
the containment. (712) 

Zewe, Kunder and Faust said that when the 
pressure in the "B" steam generator dropped to 
300 psi less than the pressure in the "A" steam 
generator ("A" steam generator pressure was 
about 1,000 psi) at about 5:30 a.m., they decided 
there was a rupture of some kind in a steam line. 
(713) Zewe, Scheimann and Kunder said the "B'' 
steam generator was isolated because the control 
room personnel thought there was a steam line 
break. (714) 

Faust, Scheimann and Bryan said, in addition, 
that the operators believed the problem was a pri- 
mary to secondary tube leak. (715) In Faust's 
words : 

I kept pushing myself that we had, first 
of all, a steam generator tube leak simply 
because I had an increasing level in the 
"B" generator, and I could not terminate 
it. It had to be coming from somewhere. 

179 However, in another interview Zewe said the sump pumps usually come on about once each 8-hour shift to remove 
condensation from the sump. (704) Thus, the operators might not have interpreted the sump pump alarm as an unam- 
biguous sign of an unusual amount of water. 

180 A key symptom of a leaking steam line inside the containment is a rise in containment pressure. Bryan's state- 
ment implies that the operators first thought the rupture of the drain tank was responsible for the rise in pressure, then 
thought that the steam leak was responsible, and finally attributed it again to the drain tank. 

181 Isolated means they stopped flow of feedwater to It. 


Brvan said they isolated the generator because 
they thought it had a tube leak. 182 (717) Faust said 
he believed there was both a tube leak and a steam 
line break, although "I mainly wanted to isolate 
the -B' generator because I thought it has a tube 
leak." (718) 

Faust said that he also thought there may have 
been a break in the emergency feedwater line as 
well. (719) a result of his rapid initiation of emer- 
gency feedwater How eight minutes into the acci- 
dent! 183 

The evidence indicates that Zewe was the only 
other person aware of this hypothesis. Faust noted 
that "[Zewe] didn't fully agree with me on it" 
( 7-2-2 ) Faust also said he believed the break could 
have been the source of the water in the contain- 
ment sump. (723) 

Addendum 10 

The control room personnel found the proce- 
dures to l>e vague or unclear and incomplete. 
TMI-2 Emergency Procedure 2202-1.5, "Pres- 
suri7A'r System Failure." listed the symptoms for 
a failed PORV. Zewe said that the control room 
personnel referred to this procedure during the 
accident, although he noted that "we did not spe- 
cificallv pull out that procedure until later localise 
we did' not suspect that we had the relief valve 
problem." (7:24) 

Symptom 2 of the procedure "RC System. Pres- 
sure in Mow 2205 psig and RC-R2 [PORV valve] 
fall* to clone" implies a tautology: that PORV 
failure ("RC-R2 fails to close") is a symptom of 
PORV failure. Further. Frederick interpreted the 
procedure to be referring to the PORV position 
indicator light in the control room, rather than the 
PORV itself. (725) Since the absence of the light 
indicated a closed valve, he did not consider the 
symptom to be applicable. (726) Zewe. too, be- 
lieved it to have closed because of the absence of 
the light : 

... we have a red light for the valve 
whenever it lifts of course that was still 
out and I didn't realize it ... was still 
hung open. . . . (727) 

Symptom 4 : "The RC drain tank pressure and 
temperature are above normal on the control room 
radwaste disposal control panel 8A" was reviewed 
bv the control room personnel several times during 
the first two and one-third hours of the accident. 
The procedure does not mention that pressure in 
the reactor coolant drain tank will rise steadily 
until the rupture disc bursts, at which point pres- 

sure will return to normal. The symptoms referred 
only to conditions which would exist immediately 
after the PORV became stuck open. 

In addition, the procedure did not discuss how 
the water level in the tank would behave if the 
PORV were to stick open. While actual water 
levels could not be specified by the procedure be- 
cause the drain tank collects leakage from many- 
places in the primary system, how the level would 
change could have been addressed. 

The operators had focused on the water level 
in the drain tank in their efforts to diagnose the 
accident. Zewe said he concluded, given the ab- 
sence of a procedure on water level and without 
data on trends, that the low level in the drain 
tank indicated the PORV was not venting water 
into the tank and was therefore closed. (728) 

Overall, the procedure described the various 
symptoms too generally. As a case in point, it 
stated that temperature and pressure would be 
"above normal." symptoms so broad that they 
also applied to those produced by a normally 
functioning PORV during a reactor trip. 

With respect to the role emergency procedures 
played in the operators' decision to throttle HPI, 
Zewe said that when the operators manually acti- 
vated the first HPI pump, he referred to TMI-2 
Emergency Procedure No. 2202-1.3, "Loss of Re- 
actor Coolant/Reactor Coolant System Pressure.'' 
(729) Sections 3.0 to 3.2.2, Part A, entitled "Leak 
or Rupture Within Capability of System 
Operations." (730) These sections describe the 
steps operators should follow when they manually 
initiate HPI. The last one (3.2.2) to which Zewe 
said he progressed directed operators to throttle 
HPI if the level of water in the pressurizer went 
over 220 inches : 

DEPRESSING the Group Reset Push- 
buttons & "THROTTLE" MU-V16A/B/ 
C/D as necessary to maintain 220" pres- 
surizer level and not exceed 250 GPM/ 
HPI flow leg. (731) 

Section 3.2.5 on the next page of the procedure 
contains the following warning: 

CAUTION: Continued operation de- 
pends upon the capability to maintain 
pressurizer level and RCS [reactor cool- 
ant system] pressure above the 1640 PSIG 
[pounds per square inch gauge] Safety 
Injection Actuation Setpoint. (732) 

1K A tube leak would involve a break in one of the many small pipes within the generator through which heat from 
the coolant is transferred. 

110 Faust said that when he opened the block valves on the emergency feedwater line, a microphone near the main 
steam piping picked up the sound of ". . . cold water going down a hot pipe and hitting the hot-steaui generator." (720) 
Faust noted that : "I thought then there was a break in the emergency feed line possible, not that the line sheared off, 
but a break somewhere due to thermal shock." (721) 


Zewe missed the caution. He said, 

I never went that far [in reading the sec- 
tion]. I was still at the point of the pro- 
cedure under the previous page of trying 
to throttle high-pressure injection flows 
to maintain levels. (733) 

Zewe did not say why he stopped, but implied 
that, since he was unable to reduce pressurizer 
level to 220 inches, he never went beyond that step 
of the procedure. (734) 

Frederick commented on the difficulty of writ- 
ing emergency procedures: 

The tough part about any emergency 
procedure is writing comprehensive 
symptom type statements that'll get you 
started on a procedure. And it's hard to 
anticipate any kind of or all of the situa- 
tions that would start you on a procedure. 
Symptoms have to be general, they have 
to be general and specific at the same time. 
You have to try and accomplish a wide 
number of circumstances, but they have 
to use specific indications to get you 
start fed]. So it's a tough assignment. . . . 

Addendum 11 

Zewe stated that at one point he was referring 
to Part A of the LOCA emergency procedure 
2202-1.3. When the Engineered Safety (ES) sys- 
tem was activated at two minutes into the acci- 
dent, that part of the procedure was no longer 
applicable. Instead, the relevant part was "B," 
"Leak or Rupture of Significant Size Such that 
Engineered Safety Features Svstems Are Auto- 
matically Initiated." Zewe said he did not refer 
to that part of the procedure during the accident 
because he did not believe the activation was the 
result of a LOCA. Had he followed Part B, as 
directed by the procedure, he would have known 
to leave the HPI pumps running until he could 
turn on the low pressure injection pumps to cool 
down the reactor. (736) 

Addendum 12 

Zewe said that cooldown by natural circulation 
was discussed in the TMI-2 emergency procedure 
covering loss of off site power. 184 (737) However, 
in a group interview witli Scheimann, Faust and 
Frederick, he commented that the procedure 

... no real detail on what to look at or 
how long to look at it ... or how long 
you'll have to wait before you start to 
see invalid indications one way or the 
other. (738) 

Addendum 13 

The first, and possibly the second, reading was 
obtained by Bryan at Zewe's request. (739) 

There is reason to question whether it was 
Bryan who called up the readings at 5 :20 a.m., 
80 minutes into the accident. He recalled, 

I checked the temperatures at least 
twice, maybe three times within the 
first couple of minutes, well, within tin- 
first half hour that I was there. And 
each time all three of them [the PORV 
and the code safety valves] indicated 
I forgot the numbers, but they were 
within 15 degrees or something like 
that. . . . (740) 

However, many operators had poor recollec- 
tions of when events occurred during the acci- 
dent. Bryan's comment that the temperatures of 
the three valves were within about 15 of each 
other is consistent with the readings taken at 
4:24 a.m., 24 minutes into the accident, and not 
with those taken at 80 minutes. At that point 
the PORV was about 65 hotter than the code 
safety valves. This discrepancy is significant, 
since Bryan claimed to have been focusing on 
the temperature difference between the PORV 
and the other valves. Either (1) someone other 
than Bryan took the reading at 80 minutes, or (2) 
Bryan misread the reading. 

Mehler asked for the last set of readings. From 
them he concluded the PORV was open. (741) 

Addendum 14 

In interviews after the accident. Bryan recalled 
only that the temperatures of the PORV and 
code safety valve discharge lines were within about 
15F of each other. (742) Since all three valves 
had elevated discharge line temperatures, he con- 
cluded the PORV was not stuck open "Fbe]cause 
the other two are indicating the same." (743) 
Bryan noted. "I know I looked at the indications 
for the valves and it indicated closed.'' (744) 
When he was asked why he did not suspect the 
PORV was open, he replied. "It indicated shut. 
All three relief valve temperatures were approxi- 
mately the same." (745) 

Comparing the temperatures of the PORV and 
code safety valves for diagnosing PORV failure, 
was not discussed in the emergency procedure. 
Rather, operators were to consider only the tem- 
perature of the PORV discharge line. 

Bryan did not state why he used this incorrect 
diagnostic method. Other operators have said, 
however, that during normal operations, differ- 
ences in temperature between the PORV and 

'TMI-2 Emergency Procedure No. 2202-2.1. 


the code safety valves could be used to determine 
whether a valve was leaking. (745) Bryan may 
have assumed the same principle applied in an ac- 
cident in which a valve stuck open. 

The Special Investigation staff believe, on the 
contrary, that in sucli a situation heat would be 
transferred to all the discharge lines, so that, at 
least initially, the valves would have similar 

Zewe has conflicting recollections about what 
Bryan told him about the discharge line tempera- 
tures and how he interpreted them. In one inter- 
view. Zewe said Bryan checked the temperatures 
at 4:24; 24 minutes into the accident, and that 

. . . they didn't look abnormally high since 
the electromatic [PORV] had lifted. It 
was about 228 or 230 degrees and they had 
been running about 170 to 180 so I figured 
it was still warm from when it lifted. 

This statement suggests that Zewe was looking 
at how much the temperature was elevated above 
normal. It also suggests that he discounted the pro- 
cedure's warning that a temperature of over 200 
in the discharge line was a symptom of PORV 
failure, both because he was aware that tempera- 
ture in the line prior to the accident was elevated 
and that the valve had lifted. 

In another interview Zewe implied that he, 
like Bryan, relied on a comparison of the tempera- 
tures of the PORV and code safety valve discharge 

I ... had him check the discharge tem- 
peratures of the relief valves, and he 
said you know the RCRV 2 [PORV] is a 
little* high, about 30 higher. (748) 

It is possible that Bryan never told Zewe what 
the temperatures of the three valves actually were, 
instead noting only that they were within 30 
of each other, and that Zewe subsequently con- 
fused the 228F reading which Mehler obtained 
at 5:17. 2 hours and 17 minutes into the accident, 
with what Bryan told him at 4 :24. 24 minutes into 
it. This would explain Zewe's previous statements 
that the PORV temperature at 24 minutes into 
the accident was about 230F. although subse- 
quent analysis has shown it was 285F. 

Addendum 15 

Although Mehler did reach the right conclu- 
sion about the steam and was on the right track 
concerning the PORV. he had not used the steam 
tables. Like the others, he did not deduce the steam 
was superheated and that the core was uncovered 
and being damaged. He later explained : 

. . . I T p until [the radiation alarms came 
in at 6:40 a.m.]. I thought [that they 

just] had steam voids in the hotlegs . . . 
That was the only place we had them 
which led me to believe we had not mv 
covered the core at that time. I did realize 
we had problems and fuel failure when all 
the alarms came on. Until that point 
there was no indication we did have fuel 
damage. (749) 

Addendum 16 

Logan was perplexed by the source and inter- 
mediate range monitors : 

... I might add, at the same time that we 
lit the pump off we had an indication of 
a count rate increasing. We had at the 
same time received a chemical analysis 
indicating that our boron . . . was lower 
than we had anticipated . . . There 
were several abnormal indications going 
through there. (750) 

Addendum 17 

Benson's description to Special Investigation 
staff was : 

. . . I basically looked at the reactor cool- 
ant temperature; the [hotleg] was 
pegged [high] the [coldleg] was 130 to 
140 degrees : it was just the opposite . . . 
I look at the pressure; it was down. I 
noticed there was no flow ; all the reactor 
coolant pumps were off ... I looked at 
the start-up [source] range and . . . the 
intermediate range . . . and they had 
both [come] down to what appeared to 
be normal after they made that one pump 
start a little earlier. 

So I figure I would see what the incores 
[the incore neutron detectors] read. 
When you're below 15% power the com- 
puter won't do certain calculations, one 
of them being the incores . . . That 
wasn't the case. There were some of them 
printing out full scale ... I noticed that 
the ones that were printing offscale were 
basically the hot channels or ... [fuel] 
assemblies that you would expect to be at 
the highest [neutron] flux ... It seemed 
like the information was pretty good be- 
cause it was actually showing the correct 
assemblies I would expect to have the 
highest decay heat, but I couldn't believe 
they were offscale ... I assumed one time 
we had a void go through the core. . . . 

Addendum 18 

Two other factors contributed to the contin- 
uing difficulty the XRC had with internal com- 
munications on March 28. both outgrowths of 
the inadequacy of the emergency response plan- 


ning and implementation of NEC's emergency re- 
sponse program. One was the actual flow of in- 
formation between TRACT and the EMT on 
March 28, as compared with the intended flow, as 
depicted in the NRC Headquarters Incident Re- 
sponse Plan. Second was the failure of the Reac- 
tor Operations Inspection 185 implementing pro- 
cedures, in effect during this incident, to include 
staff of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation 
(NRR) as part of the emergency response orga- 

Although the Response Plan specified that in- 
formation between IRACT and the EMT would 
go through a predesignated liaison, on March 28 
no set pattern was followed in the transmittal of 
data. The EMT received briefings from a number 
of IRACT support staff and team members. (752) 
Further, different EMT members would confer on 
their own with various members of IRACT, and 
"nearly all of the communication that took place 
back and forth between IRACT and EMT was 
verbal." (753) 

Edson Case, the representative NRR had as- 
signed to the EMT on March 28, told Subcom- 
mittee staff that the EMT never had any sort of 
formal meeting and that he received his informa- 
tion primarily from his NRR counterpart on 
IRACT, Victor Stello. (754) 

Case's comment reveals an even broader prob- 
lem the separation between NRR and I&E staff 
on the EMT and IRACT. Although, as noted, the 
ROI implementing procedures did not call for 
participation by NRR, the NRC Headquarters' 
Response Plan did, and several NRR personnel 
were assigned to the two teams. The incident re- 
sponse organization in turn functioned to some 
extent as though there were two separate organi- 
zations one of NRR staff and one of I&E. For 
example, individual EMT "team members were 
speaking to members of their respective organiza- 
tions to obtain updating information on particu- 
lar items of concern to them." (755) 

There were also, in effect, two IRACT's one 
under the Director of IRACT. who was from 
I&E, and one under the IRACT member from 
NRR. One illustration of this division involved 
two IRACT Support Groups Plant Systems Ef- 
fects and Radiological and Environmental Ef- 
fects. James H. Sniezek, Director of I&E's Divi- 
sion of Fuel Facilities and Material Safety In- 
spection, headed the radiological group, as speci- 
fied in the implementing procedures. However, 
according to Darrel Eisenhut, Deputy Director of 
NRR, Brian Grimes, an TRACT support staff 
person assigned by NRR, transmitted the radio- 
logical information received at the Response Cen- 

ter to a reactor systems team located in the build- 
ing where NRR had its main offices. (756) 

There is evidence that this second team was dis- 
tinct from the IRACT radiological group staffed 
by I&E personnel and headed by Sniezek. For ex- 
ample, the physical layout of the Center provided 
a station for the radiological group's activity, but, 
according to Sniezek, he and Grimes did not share 
that location : 

Question: Mr. Grimes was working 
with you wasn't he, on the radiological 

SNIEZEK : We were not working di- 
rectly in the same physical location. . . . 

Another statement by Sniezek suggests that he 
and Grimes were not actually working together: 

Question: Was Mr. Grimes working 
with you on March 28 ? 

SNIEZEK: He was in the incident re- 
sponse center. 

Question : Was he following radiologi- 
cal information ? 

SNIEZEK : He was involved somewhat 
in following radiological information 
also. (758) 

Who was heading the TRACT Plant Systems 
Effects Support Group was an open question. Ac- 
cording to Grimes, it was Stello : 

I think in effect Mr. Stello was . . . leading 
the [plant] systems evaluation as the most 
knowledgeable person in the field, and 
looked to me for radiological evaluations, 
as the primary source of [those kind of] 
evaluations, and the I&E function was 
communication and collection of infor- 
mation, as had been planned. (759) 
However, according to TRACT team members 
Harold Thornburg and E. Morris Howard, both 
I&E Division Directors, Plant Systems Effects 
was under the direction of Norman Moseley, Di- 
rector of TRACT. (760) Moseley, on the other 
hand, said the group was headed by IRACT's 
Technical Coordinator, Samuel Bryan. (761) 
Bryan in turn stated that while he was following 
operational and plant systems issues, he was not 
the Technical Coordinator. He thought Edward 
Jordan, Assistant Director for Technical Pro- 
grams, had that job. (762) 

Bryan at times served as back-up for the field 
communicator holding the phone to the site open, 
receiving information and asking questions over 
the open line. (763) It would seem impossible for 
him to have been coordinating the activities of 
the two support groups. Nor is it apparent that 

" The Division of Reactor Operations Inspection is within the Office of Inspection and Enforcement. Its implementing 
procedures were to be applied in the event of an incident involving plant operations. Thus its personnel were designated 
as support staff for the Incident Response Center. See "Prior to the Accident," p. 80. 


Sniezek was reporting to Bryan, and, as noted, the 
XRR representatives in both groups tended to 
deal primarily with one another and with their 
colleagues at XRR headquarters. (764) 

There is no evidence showing who, if anyone, 
was acting as Technical Coordinator. 

The Reactor Operations Inspection implement- 
ing procedures were unclear about the role of the 
Technical Coordinator. They required that the two 
support groups coordinate the agency's entire re- 
sponse in their areas of responsibility. (765) How- 
ever, the procedures did not stipulate how that was 
to be done. For example, they did not assign any- 
one responsibility for the task ; the procedures only 
mentioned that members of the two groups should 
report to a Technical Coordinator. (766) 

Addendum 19 

Miller noted that except for those items on the 
checklist for initial notification, the utility did not 
discuss matters like coolant level with State 
people : 

Question : I am sure they were commu- 
nicating radiological information to the 
State. I am not sure that the information 
regarding the plant status was being 
transmitted . . . 

MILLER : . . . There is ... a checklist for 
plant conditions in the Emergency Plan 
... it is geared to talking about things 
that need to be opened all during an acci- 
dent makeup pumps, diesel generators. 
I think if you look at that we would have 
probably conveyed that. I am not sure we 
would have conveyed the discussion you 
and I are having about the core level, the 
core flood tanks. (767) 

Addendum 20 

In answer to the question, "to your knowledge, 
none of the operations type people were talking to 
the State directly from Unit 2?" Ross stated. 
"There was none that I'm aware of." (768) 

Addendum 21 

The first conversation on the incore thermocou- 
ples involved Victor Stello and Mike Wilber. both 
at IRACT. and Harold Kister at the regional 

STELLO (in background) : And then I'll 
want to find out if they [can] give me a 
core element temperature. I got the im- 
pression those were not working. They 
had thermocouples on all the outlet as- 
semblies on the B&W plant. Do they have 
any indication on thermocouples on the 
assembly ? 

WILBER : Harry '. 

KISTER : Yes. 

WILBER : We are talking about the fuel 
assembly outlet temperatures. I under- 

stand they do have thermocouples on the 
fuel assembly outlet. Have they looked at 
any of those? 

KISTER : Are you thinking about West- 
inghouse plant 

WILBER: They are saying B&W has 

KISTER : B&W does? 

WILBER : Yeah. 

KISTER: Okay. Fuel element outlet 
temperature right ? 

WILBER: Yeah. (769) 

Addendum 22 

Characteristic of the flow of misinformation 
concerning temperatures was a series of exchanges 
that occurred between about 12 :15 and 12 :30 p.m. 
on Wednesday. Donald Caphton and Eldon Brun- 
ner at Region I were speaking with XRC inspec- 
tor Walter Baunack. who was in Unit 1 at the 
time. Baunack hypothesized that primary system 
temperature was at saturation even though he had 
no readings to go by to reach that conclusion : 
CAPHTOX : How about "R" coolant tem- 
perature, reactor coolant temperature, 
Walt, anything on that ? 

BACXACK: I suspect it's probably 
pretty near saturated, wouldn't you 
think, if they got a steam bubble in the 
steam generator it would have to be 

BRUXXER : Xo reading? 
BATTXACK: Xobody mentioned what it 
was if that's what you are saying. (770) 

XRC tape transcripts indicate that while the 
above conversation was occurring. Donald Haver- 
kamp. who was in the regional incident response 
center with Caphton and Brunner was on another 
phone speaking with James Higgins in Unit 2. 
( 771 ) Minutes later. Region I's communicator with 
IRACT provided headquarters with the following 
update : 

REGIOX I : They think the temperature 
of the reactor coolant system has stabi- 
lized. They feel it is saturated at 550 de- 
grees fahrenheit. 

IRACT: This is what is called a 

REGIOX I: They say across the board. 
IRACT: Isothermal ? 
REGIOX I : That is what I'm telling you 
right now. (772) 

In this communication Region I reported that 
liot and coldleg temperatures were both about 
550F. when, in realitv. hotleg temperatures were 
around 700 and coldleg temperatures some 450 C 
lower than temperatures in the hotleg. 

Circumstantial evidence from the tape tran- 
scripts suggests two possible reasons for the above 
misinformation being conveyed. One is that Hig- 


gins erroneously reported to Haverkamp "T ave " 
(average) readings for hotleg or primary system 
temperature. That mistake had been made earlier 
in the morning. Another possibility is that based 
on Baunack's speculation that primary system tem- 
perature was at saturation, Region I personnel de- 
rived and reported a primary system temperature 
which they had obtained by comparing the known 
system pressure with standardized steam tables. 
Either method would have produced the erroneous 
information that system temperature was about 

Addendum 23 

The NRC did an analysis of HPI flow rates 
based on changes in the level of water in the 
Borated Water Storage Tank from which the HPI 
water was drawn. (773) Its analysis showed that 
over the four-hour period between 1 :15 p.m. and 
5 :20 p.m., the average net rate of flow into the core 
was 150 gallons per minute (gpm). During four 
other periods of the day the rates were : 

(1) 4 a.m. to about 7:30 a.m. (corre- 
sponding to the period when the core was 
first uncovered) 70 gpm ; 

(2) 7:30 a.m. to about 11 a.m. (corre- 
sponding to the period when the core was 
again covered and repressurization oc- 
curred) at least 680 gpm; 

(3) about 11 a.m. to about 1:15 p.m. 
(the period of the first depressurization) 
360 gpm ; and, 

(4) about 5 :23 p.m. to 6 :41 p.m. (the period 
after the decision was made to repressurize 
the system again) 470 gpm. 

Addendum 24 

Higgins had told the Special Inquiry Group: 

Question : Do you recall any questions 
or suggested questions coming in from 
Region I or from Bethesda relating to 
saturation conditions or relating to the 
core being uncovered ? 


Question : Do you recall anybody over 
the phone saying, "Hey, we think there's 
a core coverage problem ?" 

HIGGINS : Definitely not. 

Question : You don't recall that ? 

HIGGIXS: Definitely not, because there 

were discussions among the caucuses that 
went on as to Gary Miller saying the type 
of thing : Does anyone here feel we're not 
providing adequate core cooling or ade- 
quate core coverage ? I didn't feel at that 
time there was a problem. I didn't have 
an indication the people on the other 
end of the phone in Washington felt that 
either. I guess I can add here things I 
found out afterwards ? 

Question: Sure. 

HIGGIXS: Afterwards, that Mr. Stello 
called the Unit 1 control room and talked 
to an operator there sometime in the af- 
ternoon and asked that, operator to pass 
on to their management the NRO's con- 
cern about core coverage, which if that 
happened, it just never did get to the 
caucuses, never did get to the right peo- 
ple, and in fact, was really not the right 
way to get it to management because, 
first, coming from Mr. Stello at that 
point, that's certainly a significant com- 
ment because that represents some type 
of NRC caucus, I would think, some type 
of NRC consensus that had that feeling. 
If I had heard that. I would have cer- 
tainly taken some steps to find out why 
they felt that and tried to communicate 
that to Met Ed. (774) 

Addendum 25 

Another specific weakness in emergency plan- 
ning was the lack of procedures for internal plant 
communications during an accident, 7)articularly 
with regard to diagnosing plant conditions. The 
TMI-2 Emergencv Plan provided no guidance 
to the emergency director about how to assess the 
condition of the plant during an emergency if it 
should be determined that the plant was in a state 
that was not covered by the plant's emergency pro- 
cedures. The plan merely delegated the responsi- 
bility for developing internal plant communica- 
tions procedures to the emergency director. Xor 
were there any provisions in the Emergency Plan 
for marshaling the technical and scientific advice 
of outside agencies and groups. Tn fact, there was 
no procedure in the Emergency Plan for participa- 
tion by the reactor-vendor, the XRC or the archi- 
tect's engineer in assessing plant conditions. (775) 


Chapter 8 

Recovery At Three Mile Island 



Cleanup workers at Three Mile Island gain access for the first time to the airlock leading to the ,...- 
tainment Beyond the second door are the damaged reactor and other major components of the 
plant s primary system 


Chapter 8 

Recovery At Three Mile Island 


One aftermath of the accident has been the 
enormous and complex task of recovery. It can. 
in fact, be considered a continuation of the 

Recovery involves two phases: cleanup of the 
TMI-2 facility, principally decontamination and 
disposal of the radioactive debris, including the 
damaged core : and the future disposition of Unit 
2 whether to refurbish it as a power plant or to 
decommission it. 

The Special Investigation emphasized the clean- 
up phase of recovery. Cleanup is of deep concern 
to the utility, the XRC. the local population and 
the Congress. It is unprecedented in scope and 
complexity and is likely to have a substantial 
impact on the future of nuclear energy in this 

The complex and uncertain steps involved in 
cleanup are reviewed in this section not only in 
terms of the technical difficulties, but also in terms 
of financial, social, legal and regulatory consider- 

The technical challenge is without parallel 
among privately owned commercial nuclear power 
plants. Coping successfully with the radioactive 
debris, especially the core, is a very large and dif- 
ficult part of the task. There are also health and 
safety questions, such as the exposure of workers 
to radiation and the proximity of TMI to a densely 
populated area. However, based on the evidence 
reviewed by the Special Investigation, including 
prior recovery operations at government reactors 
in the United States and other countries, the Sub- 
committee believes that the technical challenge can 
be met. 

The technical questions are interwoven with fi- 
nancial, social and legal factors. For example, 
the potential cost to the licensee is great, and the 
financial future of Metropolitan Edison (Met Ed) , 
the plant's operating utility, is unclear. Local 

elected officials testified that the communities near 
Three Mile Island are extremely apprehensive 
about cleanup for many reasons, and very dis- 
trustful of both the XRC and the utility. There 
has been substantial opposition to many of the ini- 
tial cleanup proposals. Some of the legal and 
regulatory questions are without clear precedent. 
The XRC has never dealt with a similar cleanup, 
and it faces many unresolved issues. Especially im- 
portant are the circumstances under which it may 
take immediate action in authorizing cleanup 
tasks, before the- required deliberative decision- 
making procedures have been completed. Another 
issue is the environmental review procedure to be 

Within the context of these various issues, 
cleanup poses a difficult dilemma. Cleanup requires 
careful planning, but there is the pressure of the 
unknown. The reactor's present condition is not 
without risk, and the status of components vital 
to the integrity of key systems is uncertain and 
unpredictable. Further weakening and failure of 
important equipment can be expected with the 
passage of time, and accidental releases of radio- 
activity and recriticality of the core are possible. 
The various methods for venting the radioactive 
gases, disposing of the radioactive water and re- 
moving the radioactive waste all of which are re- 
quired for cleanup could result in uncontrolled 
releases to plant workers and surrounding commu- 
nities. Even in cases where the XRC and GPU 
have concluded that health hazards are minimal, 
some members of the nearby communities view any 
releases as hazardous. 1 

To date, cleanup has followed established legal 
and regulatory procedures that, while deliberate, 
provide for orderly decisionmaking through care- 
ful consideration of options and through public 
participation. Decisions should involve the con- 
sideration of timing and a careful weighing of the 
risks and benefits of alternative courses of action. 

1 See "Social Issues in Recovery," pp. 198, 199-200. 




The accident at Three Mile Island badly dam- 
aged the Unit 2 nuclear core and released radio- 
activity into the primary system coolant water. 
As of June 1980, the containment held hundreds 
of thousands of gallons of the highly contaminated 
water, whose lower layers have been described as 
"flocculent in appearance, gelatinous, dark green 
color," (1) the result of chemicals released when 
the ftiel failed. The dominant radioactive isotope 
in the water is cesium 137, 2 with a relatively long 
half-life of 30 years. 

The amount of water in the containment is still 
increasing because of leaking pump seals. It may 
threaten two motors which operate valves critical 
to maintenance of the primary cooling system and 
to removal of the radioactive water. Those valves 
are also necessary for assuring the operation of the 
new, long-term cooling equipment needed for 
cleanup. Assuming plant conditions remain as they 
were in April 1980, the valves should not become 
submerged for at least a year. 

The atmosphere in the containment consists of 
various radioactive gases. Some accidental releases 
have already occurred, and there is a possibility of 
further ones. However, the potential amount is 
slowly decreasing with time, as radioactive ma- 
terial decays naturally. 

Thus the atmosphere, walls and water in the 
containment are all contaminated with radioac- 
tivity. As of early June 1980. personnel were un- 
able to enter the bnildin,<r to survey it. and estimates 
of the levels have been based on indirect measure- 
ments and analyses. The unsuccessful initial at- 
tempt to enter the containment in mid-May raised 
the question of whether corrosion would make de- 
contamination more difficult. 3 

Although actual levels of radiation are high, 
thev are much lower than originally projected. In 
July 1979, it was estimated that gamma radiation 
would reach 2,400 rad/hr by December. (2) In 
December it was calculated to be less than 1 
rad/hr. (3) 

There are two principal reasons for the substan- 
tial differences between projected and actual levels. 

The earlier estimates (4) had intentionally been 
made very conservatively. In addition, they were 
based on radiation levels as measured by the con- 
tainment dome monitor. (5) Later independent 
measurements 4 and tests of the dome monitor 
showed that it was not functional. 

Most of the isotopes with short half-lives al- 
ready have decayed into their stable forms and no 
longer emit radiation in the containment. This has 
reduced the radiological hazard substantially. 
Especially important is the decay of iodine 131 
(1-131) , a volatile element that concentrates in the 
thyroid gland. Because it has a half-life of about 
eight days, virtually all of it has decayed. The 
dominant radioactive isotope still present as of 
June 1980 was krypton 85 (Kr-85), which has 
a half-life of 10.7 years. 

Radioactive water is also present in the auxiliary 
building; again, cesium 137 is the dominant radio- 
active isotope. 

The damaged and highly radioactive core con- 
tinues to generate relatively low levels of heat that 
must be removed continuously. 

The amount of radioactivity still present at the 
site insubstantial and consists principally of long- 
lived Isotopes. The condition and reliability of the 
equipment and systems that must contain this radi- 
ation are uncertain, particularly in the contain- 
ment. The viability of critical electrical and 
mechanical systems may have been affected by the 
exposure to steam and moisture, the continuous 
operation of equipment for much longer than de- 
signed for, the cumulative effects of radiation, se- 
vere thermal cycling 5 and the hydrogen burn that 
occurred on the afternoon of the first day of the 

Because the containment has been inaccessible, 
the utility has been unable to evaluate the equip- 
ment and systems directly. It has been impossible 
to determine whether the elastomeric 6 seals and 
the building air coolers 7 are undamaged. 


As a result of the unknown and uncertain con- 
dition of plant systems and equipment, the poten- 

' Cesium 137 has been emitting most of the gamma radiation in the water. Gamma radiation is similar to. but more 
penetrating than, X-rays. See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," for a description of radiation and its measurement, 
pp. 43-44. 

s See p. 184. 

1 A combination of techniques was used to make the measurements, including scans through a nine-inch hole bored 
into an access port in the containment. 

6 Thermal cycling the unusual hot and cold oscillating conditions during the accident may have altered the 
mechanical strength of some of the system components. 

This is a special pliable material used throughout the plant to prevent leaking. 
The air coolers insure that air pressure inside the containment building is lower than outside in order that no out- 
ward leakage will occur. 


tial for some problems has been analyzed. These 
include : 

Leakage of krypton 

If the elastomeric seals or air cooling units were 
to fail, krypton would escape at ground level. I 
could also escape if temperature in the containment 
could not continue to be lowered sufficiently to keep 
pressure down in order to offset the increase in 
pressure that results from inward air leakage. 

In response to questions by the Subcommittee, 
then-NRC Chairman Joseph Hendrie 8 said he did 
not think the krypton was a "pressing danger or 
urgent risk." (6) However, he added, ". . . the 
longer these materials are allowed to remain . . . 
in the containment building, the more chance there 
is that somebody will open the wrong valve or 
something else will happen and some of it will get 
out." (7) Because the krypton did pose "some in- 
crement, however small it may be, to the public 
risk." he concluded, "We need to get on with [re- 
moving] it." (8) 

Leakage of water through the containment walls 
Results of a radiochemical analysis of the water 

indicate that there is no short-term risk of corro- 
sion attacking the %" steel lining of the building. 
Nonetheless, localized concentrations of caustic 
chemicals could produce leaks. It is not known how 
long they might take to develop. 

In April 1980 radioactivity was detected in one 
of the eight wells drilled into the bedrock around 
the plant in order to monitor the water continually 
for leakage from the containment. The well was 
located 60 feet from the Borated Water Storage 
Tank. 9 A radiation level of 2,500 picocuries per 
liter was measured, as compared with the normal 
500 picocuries per liter attributable to natural 
background radiation, 10 as measured prior to the 

At the time the radioactivity was detected, the 
GPU Service Corporation " did not know the 
source of the contamination. Spokesmen said it 
could have resulted from nothing more than fluc- 
tuations in the natural background radiation level. 
(9) It could also have been the result of leakage 
from the Borated Water Storage Tank, since some 
of the same radioisotopes were present in both the 
tank and the well sample. (10) Another possibil- 
ity was leakage from the primarv containment, 
since, again, some of the same radioisotopes were 
present both in the containment and in the well 
sample. (11) 

General Public Utilities Corporation (GPU) 
considers the groundwater contamination to be im- 
portant and has been investigating the source. (12) 

If the containment building is leaking, little can 
be done except to accelerate processing of the 
water, although that action might involve some 
risk and be undesirable. 

Recriticality of the core, leading either to 
limited melting of the fuel, or a core 

Both the NRC and the Special Investigation 
looked into this possibility. (13) The NRC study 
concluded that the most likely cause of recritical- 
ity would be dilution of the boron concentration in 
the water. 12 ( 14) According to the NRC, this proc- 
ess would occur slowly enough that the approach to 
criticality could be detected in time to take correc- 
tive action, assuming the necessary instrumenta- 
tion, procedures and equipment were available. 
(15) The study further concluded that recriticality 
most likely "[would] not result in significant off- 
site radiological consequences." (16) Even in the 
worst and least likely case a meltdown within an 
unisolated containment with no means of removing 
heat from the containment or no containment 
sprays the latent risk of cancer to individuals off- 
site would be negligible compared to the normal 
incidence of that disease. (17) However, recriti- 
cality could produce radiation levels in the con- 
tainment at least 10 times higher than existed in 
April 1980. (18) Those levels would constitute an 
increased risk to the onsite workers involved in 
cleanup. That risk would be reduced at the time of 
recriticality by evacuating the workers, a protec- 
tive action that is feasible because such an accident 
would take place over 10 hours and radiation 
would be released gradually. (19) 

At its November hearings, the Subcommittee 
asked Richard F. Wilson of General Public Utili- 
ties Service Corporation. then-Direotor of Cleanup 
at TMI-2, about the possibility of core melting. 
He testified, 

I don't believe [that with] the current 
heat production in the core, there's any 
credible set of circumstances which would 
lead to melting of the core. (20) 

Several NRC officials also testified. Harold R. 
Denton, the Director of the Office of Nuclear Re- 
actor Regulation (NRR), said ". . . there's no 
possibility that there would be a core melt through 
the reactor vessel. . . ." (21) However, he raised 

8 Hendrie was replaced by Acting Chairman John F. Ahearne on December 7, 1979. 
' See "How the Plant Works." p. 31. 

10 See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," p. 45. 

11 GPU Service Corporation performed engineering functions for GPU, such as TMI-2 cleanup, etc. Recently, GPU 
formed a new entity, GPU Nuclear Corporation, in part to improve coordination among the member utilities. 

12 See "How the Plant Works," p. 29. 


another possibility that hot spots 13 would de- 
velop within the core, leading to localized melting : 

. . . I'm not quite so sanguine about 
whether or not . . . temperatures might 
not approach melting somewhere in the 
fuel rods themselves. . . . (22) 

Since the core's configuration is badly distorted, 
some areas may not be getting cooled. Richard 
H. Vollmer, then-Director of TMI Site Support 
and Assistant Director for Systems and Projects, 
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, NRC said 
that the consequences of the hot spots would be 
minimal, as most of the fission products in the core 
that have high volatility had already been released 
from the system or had decayed. Thus, according 
to Vollmer, ". . . even if a small portion of the 
core were to attain high temperatures, it would 
not pose the usual threat to the public health and 
safety." (23) He went on to say, "It would . . . 
basically [involve] solid fission products which, if 
released from the core, would likely condense [in] 
the primary system or containment and not pose 
an outside threat." (24) 

As noted, dilution of the boron concentration 
could cause recriticality. Vollmer testified that the 
boron concentration could accidentally decrease as 
a result of "boron precipitation, which usually oc- 
curs on the colder portions of the surfaces in the 
primary system. . . ." (25) However, he said it 
was unlikely that the precipitation would occur 
near the core, since it was the hottest part of the 
system. (26) He also noted that because of temper- 
ature considerations, "It [boron] should be ex- 
pected to stay in the solution." (27) Chairman 
Hendrie likewise said, "I am not very concerned 
about losing boron out of that reactor water." (28) 

However, their analyses did not describe diffi- 
culties in detecting decreases in boron concentra- 
tion, as pointed out in an NRC memorandum. (29) 
First, as of April 1980, there was onlv one opera- 
tional neutron detector. If it were to fail, monitor- 
ing anv increase in power, a signal of recriticality, 
would be severely hampered. Second, an unforeseen 
rapid decrease in boron concentration would re- 
cniire equally rapid operator action in turning on 
the decav heat removal pumps. C30) The NRC 
memorandum pointed out a third factor. As of 
April, the boron concentration was being measured 
at a point 200 feet from the core. The amount at 
that point would not necessarily reflect the concen- 
tration in the core. 

Inability to remove decay heat 

If circulation should stop, so that decay heat is < 
not being removed, and assuming the water level 
is maintained, the temperature of the coolant 
water would not reach the boiling point so long as i 
adequate pressure is maintained in the system. (31) 
The core would heat the primary coolant until a 
balance is established at the point where natural 
heat losses " equal the heat generated within the 
reactor. If this condition is reached, temperature 
in the reactor would remain steady. At the level 
of decay heat in November, this balance would oc- 
cur when the temperature of the system reached 
500-600 F (260-315 C). (32) Since fuel melt- 
ing occurs at greater than 5.000 F (2.760 C), the 
likelihood of fuel melting from this sequence of 
events is extremely low. 


There have- been several problems at the plant 
since the accident. 

On December 21, 1979, the NRC issued a pre- 
liminary notification that small amounts of kryp- 
ton 85 were being released from the main 
condenser; they were detected by the condenser 
radiation monitor. 15 The amounts were measured 
at 0.0002 microcuries 16 (two-tenths of a billionth 
of a curie) per milliliter and represented no health 
hazard." (33) 

GPU explained that because pressure was higher 
in the containment than in the secondary system 
piping, it believed the gas was leaking from the 
containment into the steam line of the steam gen- 
erator "A" through degraded valve seals. The gas 
was then picked up by the steam traveling through 
the line from the generator to the condenser. 

On February 11, 1980. coolant was released from 
the primary system during surveillance testing of 
the make-up pumps. By the time the leak was veri- 
fied and stopped, between 600 and 1.000 gallons 
had drained onto the floor of the make-up pump 
cubicle in the auxiliary building. The water con- 
tained a small concentration of dissolved krypton 
85 in addition to 50-100 microcuries per milliliter 
of cesium 137. (34) It gave off krypton 85 gas, and 
an estimated 200-300 millicuries (two-tenths of a 
curie") were released to the atmosphere through the 
ventilation system exhaust of the auxiliary build- 
ing. (35) However, the station exhaust vent radi- 
ation monitor registered no increase in radiation. 

This means that localized melting might occur, but that progression to a full meltdown is unlikely. 

"Natural heat losses from the reactor occur through conduction, convection and radiation. An analogy is a light 
bulb. The bulb heats up until its temperature reaches a point where the heat losses equal the heat generation all 
without the aid of a fan or cooling water. It reaches this temperature and stays at that temperature until the light is 
switched off. 

10 The condenser is designed to release some radioactive gas during normal operation. The amount is regulated, 
and anything over it will be picked up by a radiation monitor. 

""The curie is a unit of measurement that describes the amount of radiation present or released (see Technical 
glossary). One microcurie is one millionth of a curie. One picocurie is one millionth of one millionth of a curie. 

" See "Radiation Effects and Monitoring," p. 45. 


I iin (I the water itself drained into a sump from 
,, which it was routed into one of the auxiliary build- 
ing tanks. 

^veral of the 12 workers who entered the cubi- 

* clc to locate and stop the leak were exposed to the 

radiation. The maximum individual whole body 

i dose received was about 160 millirem, (36) within 

the limits set by the NRC. 

On February 12 and 13, there was an additional 
I release of krypton gas. Approximately 4 curies 
I were cm it t cd to the atmosphere while workers were 
collecting a sample of air from the containment. 
The \KC concluded that the leak on February 
11 \\a- the result of equipment failure. (37) I>in'- 
in<_' a briefing February !">. Victor Stello, Jr.. J>i 
r of the Oflicc of I n -|ie<-t ion and F^nforcement 
I A' ]}), exr)Iained that a discharge pressure in- 
strument line valve lxcame dislodged when one of 
the make-up Dumps was restarted. (38) An NRC 
inquiry found that the releases on February 12 and 
]'.', occurred because "The shift engineer who im- 
plemented the air sample procedure did not use the 
effective Dmcedure . . . because the individual did 
not obtain a controlled copy of the procedure. ..." 
('.','n The inquiry concluded that the failure to fol- 
low document control procedures would be subject 
to subsequent enforcement action. (40) 

These incidents and the continued uncertain 
status of important equipment in the plant high- 
light the need for prompt attention to planning 
Cleanup and for improvement in the utility's radi- 
ological monitoring and protection program. 


There is still no carefully structured, overall 
plan for the cleanup at TMT, in part because of 
technical, regulatory, legal and financial uncertain- 
ompoundcd by the inability of the utility to 
enter the containment to conduct a detailed evalu- 
ation. Thus the specific steps are still undefined. 

Generally, recovery will take place in two 

Cleanup, which involves 

maintaining plant stability and pre- 
venting releases of radiation ; 

decontaminating the plant and dis- 
posing of waste materials ; and 

Deciding on the future of the facility. 
These are summarized below briefly and are dis- 

d in greater detail later in this section. 


Reactor stability must be maintained while pre- 
paring for and conducting cleanup. Two factors 
-ential in controlling the reactor core : assur- 
ing -ulK-riticality and continued cooling. 

Because some control rods are believed to have 
melted, and the shape of the core is distorted, sub- 

criticality can only be accomplished by maintain- 
ing a sufficiently high concentration of boron in 
the coolant. (41) Proper cooling requires that the 
core remain covered with coolant. Further, the de- 
cay heat being generated by the core imr-t be re- 
moved continuously, whicn is accomplished by 
circulating the coolant around the core. In addi- 
tion, the coolant must be kept from boiling, which 
requires keeping pressure in the primary system at 
a certain level. Hence, a functional system for con- 
trolling pressure is important, to stability. Finally, 
the primary coolant system (including the reactor 
vessel, piping and pressurizer) must remain intact 
in order to maintain the needed water level. A large 
break in the piping, for example, would lead to a 
release of coolant and thereby threaten reactor 

If all coolant were lost, and the coi-e remained 
uncovered, it would gradually heat, but not melt. 
In an interview with the Special Investigation 
staff, Richard H. Vollmer, Office of Nuclear Re- 
actor Regulation, NRC. explained: 

If you lost all the water, ... in the pri- 
mary system. I think even then, [the li- 
censee] would be able to take the heat out 
because the core would go up to elevated 
temperature where it would start to radi- 
ate to the vessel . . . and you would have 
your conduction that way. (42) 

As noted, the rising level of water in the con- 
tainment could eventually submerge and cause 
failure of two valves that are important to the new 
long-term cooling equipment to be installed. This 
poses a threat to stability. 


The first step in cleaning up the plant is to 
decontaminate the auxiliary building. Prior to 
decontamination, a buildup of radioactive water 
in the auxiliary building caused the greatest short- 
term possibility of a release of radiation to the 
environment. (43) As a stopgap measure, the 
water has been stored in tanks, but ultimately it 
must be processed, both because the radioactivity 
must be removed and because the capacity of the 
tanks is limited. Furthermore, much of the equip- 
ment necessary for controlling the stability of the 
plant is in the auxiliary building. If this equip- 
ment is left near the highly radioactive tanks, the 
workers who must operate it will receive unneces- 
sarily high dose rates of radiation and would have 
to be replaced frequently by other workers. 

The next major step in cleanup is to remove the 
krypton 85 gas inside the containment to provide 
safe access to equipment inside the building, such 
as the reactor and steam generators, and to permit 


Next is removal of the highly radioactive water 
inside the building. This water represents a health 
hazard to workers who will have to spend long 
periods inside the building and also impedes over- 
all decontamination. 

After removal, the water will be processed to rid 
it of radioactive debris, using filtering equipment 
similar to that used in the auxiliary building (see 
pp. 184-185). 

To gain access to the core, the next step in clean- 
up, the reactor head must be removed. Workers 
must first disconnect components such as the con- 
trol rods that run through the head and into the 
core. This job will be difficult if these components 
are jammed or entangled as a result of the distor- 
tion of the core. However, techniques have been 
successfully applied to similar tasks in previous 
recovery efforts. (44) 

Next is removal of the core. 18 Removal of the 
head and core is difficult to plan at this stage be- 
cause the specific damage is not known. The actual 
steps will be based on visual examination and 
mechanical tests that cannot be performed until 
there is unrestricted access to the containment. 

Although cleanup is technically challenging and 
represents a hazard to workers, comparable tasks 
have been carried out successfully at other plants 
severely damaged by accidents. 19 

Much of the technology to be used in cleanup is 
based on that developed principally at govern- 
ment-owned facilities for other applications, 
including previous accidents. In the previous ac- 
cidents, however, cleanup could be accomplished 
relatively quickly and at minimum cost because 
government plants were typically self-sufficient 
complexes where administrative support, person- 
nel and disposal sites were readily available, as was 
decontamination technology. In addition, prior 
accidents in the United States involving releases 
predated the deliberative requirements of the Na- 
tional Environmental Policy Act of 1969 involv- 
ing environmental impact statements and direct 
public participation, as applicable to the area of 
atomic energy. 

The technology already developed in these prior 
cleanup exercises is being made available for the 
Three Mile Island cleanup. (45) 

Two matters that will have to be addressed in 
relation to cleanup are the disposal of radioactive 

wastes and the worker-safety program. Both mat- 
ters are also discussed in detail below. 

No matter what is ultimately done with the 
plant, the cleanup must be completed. The plant 
is now unsafe in comparison with a normal reactor, 
and the likelihood of further accidents ac- 
cumulates with time. 


Once cleaned up, TMI-2 may be decommissioned 
(taken out of service permanently) or rebuilt 
either as a nuclear or as a coal-fired facility. 

A decision on the plant's future cannot be made 
now. Its overall physical condition must be better 
understood, and there are financial, social, legal 
and regulatory issues that must be resolved. 


Soon after the accident, General Public Utilities 
Service Corporation (GPU Service Corpora- 
tion) 20 hired the Bechtel Power Corporation to 
perform an analysis of the recovery of Unit 2. (46) 
The study, begun shortly after the accident, in- 
volves three phases. The first, completed in July 
1979, outlined a technical plan for cleanup through 
the stage of building decontamination (excluding 
core removal) and estimated the costs of recovery 
through recommissioning. The study was neces- 
sarily based on very preliminary information and 
involved best guesses in many cases. 

Bechtel estimated the cost of recovery, including 
refurbishment of the TMI-2 plant and replace- 
ment of the core, to be about $400 million. 21 exclud- 
ing energy replacement 22 and certain other costs. 
It assumed a period of 4 years for the entire 
recovery from the time workers first entered the 
containment, 23 and a manpower requirement of 
approximately 4.1 million man-hours. Cleanup 
alone would involve more than 1,000 persons at 
any one time, to be drawn from the national pool 
of radiation workers. Decontamination would 
necessitate large amounts of protective clothing 
and equipment. For example, an estimated 1 mil- 
lion each of plastic coveralls and hoods, breathing 
cannisters and rubber gloves would be needed. 

For cleanup alone, Bechtel projected a schedule 
of about 2 years and a figure of about $200 mil- 

"The half-life of the fissionable uranium 235 (U-235) in the reactor is 713 million years. This explains in part 
the need to remove the core. This task will be one of the last and most difficult. 

" Serious reactor accidents that have been cleaned up include : the SL-1 facility in Idaho ; two at the Chalk River 
facility in Canada ; Enrico Fermi in Michigan ; Windscale in England : and the SRE in California. These accidents and 
aspects of their cleanup are described in "TMI in Perspective : Other Nuclear Accidents," Appendix A, pp. 221-226. 

M See "Prior to the Accident," p. 51, for details on GPU Service Corporation. 

21 In early June, GPU indicated that final costs of cleanup and refurbishment could far exceed its initial $400 million 
estimate. See "Financial Aspects of Recovery," p. 190, and see fn. 86, p. 191. 

M Purchase of energy from other utilities to supply customers of the GPU system. 

n Since workers still have not entered the containment, the 4-year period has not yet begun. 


lion. 24 It should be noted that this figure did not 
include the costs of in-service inspection (to re- 
qualify undamaged equipment), reconstruction, 
refurbishing of major equipment, radioactive 
waste disposal and miscellaneous cleanup tasks. 
Xor did it include the expense of replacing the 
core, estimated to be between $60 and $80 million. 

An independent study of the costs of recovery 
performed for the President's Commission on the 
Accident at Three Mile Island estimated decon- 
tamination and fuel removal at $90-$130 million. 

The final cleanup figure may vary substantially 
from the estimates of both Bechtel and the Presi- 
dent's Commission. Since the plant must be cleaned 
up. the associated costs for that portion of recovery 
are unavoidable. 

The second phase of the Bechtel study, sched- 
uled for completion soon, is to cover removal of 
the reactor head and disposal of the core. The third 
and final phase will address recertification and 
recommissioning the steps necessary to put the 
plant back into operation. The studv of this phase 
is incomplete, since it requires a detailed assess- 
ment of the plant, which cannot be finished until 
the containment is entered. 


All planning for cleanup and recovery must be 
coordinated with the XKC. The agency must ap- 
prove the cleanup plan and is responsible for es- 
tablishing the requirements governing cleanup, 
including limits on worker exposure and radiation 
releases. Because this is the first major commercial 
accident in the United States 25 involving large- 
scale cleanup and recovery, mechanisms for coor- 
dination between the XRC and the utility are being 
developed as recovery proceeds. 

As of June 1980. the XRC had not approved an 
overall plan for cleanup. GPU Service Corpora- 
tion prepared a plan and schedule in response to a 
subcommittee request. The XRC reviewed the plan 
and provided three alternate schedules, reflecting 
three contingencies. 

With no approved plan, there can. of course, be 
no final target schedule or timetable for comple- 
tion of the cleanup. The XRC's most conservative 
estimates of time for the cleanup run nearly 5 
vears. (48) morp than twice the Bechtel projection. 
The lengthy XRC schedule allows time for en- 

vironmental reviews and the application of more 
stringent restrictions on radiation releases. 

The XRC also had not, as of March 1980, issued 
interim guidelines on acceptable releases from the 
plant, Xormally a nuclear power facility is al- 
lowed, and does, release a specified, non-hazardous 
amount of radiation per month. Xonetheless, a 
"zero-release" standard had effectively been im- 
posed by the XRC, which made any action on 
cleanup difficult. 

The lack of an XRC-approved plan and schedule 
for cleanup and of new NRC requirements gov- 
erning the work became major issues. At the Xo- 
vember 8, 1979, Subcommittee hearing, the Special 
Investigation staff reported that "more than 7 
months have elapsed since the day of the accident, 
but there is still no overall plan for recovery." (49) 
The subcommittee chairman stated : 

Our preliminary findings indicate that 
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ap- 
pears to be withholding guidelines for 
such a plan until the utility makes its pro- 
posal, while the utility position is that 
such a plan cannot be developed until spe- 
cific regulatory guidelines are provided 
by the XRC. So we now seem to find our- 
selves in a situation where the XRC and 
Metropolitan Edison are each waiting for 
the other to make the first move.*' (51) 

As noted, a vear after the accident, there were 
four possibilities : three schedules developed by the 
XRC, and one unapproved plan developed by the 

With no plan and no guidelines, no major prog- 
ress had been made toward full-scale cleanup as 
of early June 1980. Using that date as a starting 
point and taking the most optimistic timetable, re- 
moval of the core a principal health and safety 
concern would not occur until sometime in 1982. 
According to GPU Service Corporation, in order 
to meet even that target and other cleanup sched- 
ules, portions of its plan should have been set in 
motion early in 1980. (52) 

On Xovember 9. 1979, the Subcommittee re- 
quested that the XRC supply a best-estimate plan 
bv December 20, 1979. to include a timetable for 
the entire cleanup and. in addition, its plans for 
coordination with GPU. The XRC submitted to 
the Subcommittee material that did not include a 
best-estimate plan, but instead outlined four pos- 

This includes a 33 percent contingency. The contingency allows for the preliminary nature of the facts upon 

which estimates of cleanup were based, the potential for pricing changes and an assessment of productivity The report 

maintains that productivity is a variable which depends on conditions in the containment, administrative controls 

required support, worker dose limits and. finally, availability of special materials, equipment and many other items. 

["here was also an accident at the Enrico Fermi reactor, a small commercial, power-producing "fast" reactor 

imilar to TMI-2. The Occident was contained within the primary system and hence was not as serious as that 

Three Mile Island in Perspective : Other Nuclear Accidents." Appendix A. p. 225, for further discussion 
The Subcommittee Chairman's statement was based upon two internal memoranda generated bv the Special 
Investigation staff (50). 


5U-OS8 0-80-12 

sible cases with widely differing schedules ranging 
from 38 to 58 months. The Commission explained : 

Because of the impact on schedule that 
could result from environmental reviews 
and subsequent equipment and opera- 
tional restrictions, four decontamination 
program cases were compared to bound 
the likely duration of the decontamina- 
tion process. (53) 

The schedules provided by the NRC did not 
allow time for public hearings : 

It was also assumed that no hearings 
would be held for any steps during Phase 
1 and Phase 2 [the cleanup phase of re- 
covery]. (54) 

In a discussion between John Ahearne, the new 
Chairman of the NRC, and Richard H. Vollmer 
during a meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Com- 
mission on November 29, the mechanics of the en- 
vironmental review process were outlined : 

AHEARNE : Do you have embedded any- 
where in there the concept of will there 
be any hearings ? 

VOLLMER : Hearings were not really em- 
bedded in here and as I indicated our esti- 
mates of the environmental assessment 
and perhaps, more particularly, the en- 
vironmental impact statement are prob- 
ably as skinny as they could get. (55) 

Regarding guidelines on releases, a point also 
raised by the Subcommittee, the NRC said, in its 
response : 

We intend to solicit public comment, 
within the context of the draft program- 
matic environmental impact statement for 
the TMI decontamination and cleanup 
activities, on whether these limits, which 
were developed for effluents resulting 
from normal operations, are appropriate 
for the TMI cleanup activities in light of 
the differences in the volume and duration 
of the release of such effluents. (56) 


The staff anticipates that existing Com- 
mission regulations, guidelines and cri- 
teria applicable to a normally operating 
facility, will continue to be applied to 
cleanup activities at TMI-2. However, we 
recognize that although certain activities 
would otherwise be permitted at a nor- 
mally operating facility, it may be war- 
ranted, in the public interest, to prohibit 
them at TMI-2 even though they could 
be conducted in full compliance with ex- 
isting effluent limitations in the operat- 

ing license or NRC regulations, until 
further evaluation of them is under- 
taken. (57) 

In its response to the Subcommittee, the NRC 
made reference to two other key issues that have 
a bearing on adoption of a plan and determination 
of a schedule. 

First is the reference to a programmatic environ- 
mental impact statement. On November 21, 1979, 
the NRC decided to prepare such a statement, a 
task requiring at least a year. (It is scheduled for 
completion in September 1980.) If no "emer- 
gency"-type situations occur in the interim, it is 
likely that all decisions on cleanup will be deferred 
until then." 

The second reference was to the possibility of 
more stringent requirements being placed on TMI- 
2, for example, in connection with releases. Her- 
man Dieckamp, President of GPU, had testified 
on this point on November 8, 1979 : 

If we were to be able to proceed on the 
basis of existing regulations and specifi- 
cations, one would be able to proceed to 
discharge some of the water which was 
contaminated in the accident after having 
been processed. But the whole process, 
institutional process, has, in effect, frus- 
trated that. (58) 

The NRC Task Force Report 

Early in February 1980, two small, uncontrolled 
releases of radiation occurred at the site, as noted. 
During the week of February 11, Commissioner 
Gilinsky sent Victor Stello, Director of the Office 
of Inspection and Enforcement (I&E), to the site 
to assess the situation. As a result of Stello's visit, 
a task force on the cleanup at Three Mile Island 
was established on February 15, 1980, under the 
direction of NRC's William J. Dircks, Acting Ex- 
ecutive Director for Operations. He directed the 
task force to complete a report for the Commission 
by February 29, 1980, that would "evaluate the 
cleanup operations at Three Mile Island, how they 
are being accomplished, and the rate at which they 
are being accomplished to insure that the public 
health and safety is being protected." (59) 

Selected findings of the Task Force (60) were 
that : 

The maintenance of TMI-2 in a stable 
condition cannot be accomplished with 
zero radiation releases. 

The November 21, 1979. Policy State- 
ment of the Commission is being inter- 
preted by the NRC staff as a "zero re- 
lease" requirement insofar as it affects 

Both NRC and the licensee have al- 
lowed what was once a relatively high 

=1 See pp. 201, 204-207 for further details on the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. 


priority on developing and implement- 
ing TMI-2 cleanup plans to erode. . . . 
The full extent of approval authority 
of the XRC TMI Support Staff is un- 

* * * 

The Commission's Policy Statement 
provides sufficient flexibility so that 
prompt actions which are shown to be in 
the best interest of the public health and 
safety may be undertaken by the Com- 
mission prior to completion of the PEIS 
[Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement] ... If such prompt actions 
become numerous and must go to the Com- 
mission for approval, delays will be intro- 
duced. . . . 

Neither the XRC staff nor the licensee 
lias proposed a set of criteria that would 
provide an interim envelope for the con- 
duct of day-to-day activities . . . pending 
completion of the PEIS. . . . 

* * * 

The completion of the PEIS has be- 
come an important milestone in the clean- 
up of TMI-2. However, the Commission's 
intended use of the PEIS after comple- 
tion is not clear to the XRC staff. . . . 

* * * 

Xeither XRC nor the licensee has given 
sufficient consideration to concerns re- 
lated to the waste form for ultimate dis- 
posal of TMI-2 waste off-site. . . . 

The recommendations of the Task Force were 
that the : 

Commission announce a commitment to 
proceed with the cleanup of TMI-2 in 
as expeditious a manner as possible. 
Schedules for staff and licensee actions 
should be established and closely moni- 
tored bv EDO [XRC's Executive Direc- 
tor of Operations]. . . . 

* * * 

Commission establish and EDO en- 
force priority system that places clean- 
up and PEIS preparation higher than 
issuing new operating licenses. . . . 

* * * 

EDO ensure cleanup has adequate re- 
view for long-term waste impacts by hav- 
ing full staff coordination on all waste 
disposal actions. . . . 

Staff immediately propose for Commis- 
sion approval rational, conservative in- 
terim criteria to permit releases asso- 
ciated with plant maintenance and 
data-gathering for future cleanup re- 
quirements while awaiting completion of 

PEIS. An environmental assessment 
would be prepared for establishment of 
of these criteria, and CEQ would be con- 
sulted. The need to provide opportunity 
for public comment should be consid- 

On April 7, 1980 the Commission approved a set 
of interim radiological effluent criteria, allowing 
some work to proceed. (61) 

Pennsylvania Governor's Commission 

On February 26. 1980, Governor Richard Thorn- 
burgh of Pennsylvania issued the report of the 
Special Governor's Commission on Three Mile Is- 
land. (62) One of the topics covered was cleanup. 
The Commission cited the various risks present at 
the plant and raised several of the major issues: 

. . . decontamination of the water stored 
in these [the auxiliary building] tanks is 

essential. . . . 

* * * 

The major advantage of the controlled 
[krypton] venting option is that it can be 
accomplished in a relatively short period 
of time and it is a permanent disposal so- 
lution. The alternative disposal system* 
create large volume* of intensely concen- 
trated waste material which must be 
stored on-site or transported to a perma- 
nent disposal facility. These are not per- 
manent solutions, and would continue to 
impose a potential public health hazard. 
[Emphasis in original] 

* * * 

[Limited access to low-level radioactive 
waste repositories in South Carolina and 
Washington State] may evolve into a se- 
vere problem for Pennsylvania. 

During the week of April 7. 1980, the Union of 
Concerned Scientists agreed to a request by Gov- 
ernor Thornburgh to perform an independent 
study of krypton venting. The XRC was not re- 
quired to await the outcome of the study but did so. 

DOE and EPA Involvement 

The Department of Energy (DOE) concluded, 
independently, that controlled purging was the 
preferred alternative for removing the krvpton. 
On February 5. 1980, G. W. Cunningham, Assist- 
ant Secretary for Xuclear Energy. DOE, sent a 
letter to Dircks, which stated : 

The purpose of this letter is to urge the 
Commission to act promptly on the mat- 
ter [of krypton venting], . . . (63) 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
is also involved in the cleanup. Herbert Feinroth 
of DOE explained that : 

. . . shortly after the accident, the White 
House asked the Environmental Protec- 


tion Agency to coordinate the roles of the 
several agencies, including DOE, NRC, 
and the State in a long-term environmen- 
tal monitoring plan on [TMI]. . . . 

They [EPA] published a long-term 
surveillance plan which they have been 
conducting in the last year. This past 
week, they have initiated an activity to 
update that plan to include specifically 
what extra things should be done should 
the Commission approve the venting pro- 
posal. (64) 


Storage, shipment and ultimate disposal of 
radioactive wastes produced and accumulated 
during cleanup present additional problems, as 
does disposal of the highly radioactive core. There 
are only three available commercial disposal sites 
for low-level wastes (one each in Nevada, South 
Carolina and Washington), and none for high- 
level wastes. 28 Both Nevada and South Carolina 
have requested that TMI-2 wastes not be sent 
there, and all three States have a reciprocity agree- 
ment that bars disposal in all three should a ship- 
ment be found in violation of the requirements of 
any one of the States. (65) 

In the State of Washington, nuclear waste be- 
came a major 1980 campaign issue. Governor Dixy 
Lee Kay has said that no out-of-state low-level 
wastes should be allowed in after December 31, 
1982, a three-year period that was to allow States 
time to develop other options. (66) In addition, 
the Governor of South Carolina has imposed grad- 
uated limits on the amounts of low-level wastes 
that will be permitted into that State, according to 
testimony before the Nuclear Regulation Subcom- 
mittee on January 25, 1980. 

Taken together, all three provisos raise serious 
questions about the availability of disposal sites 
for the substantial quantities of low-level wastes 
that will be generated over the next several years 
as part of the TMI cleanup. 

In the case of high-level waste, the problems are 
compounded. Because commercial reprocessing of 
spent fuel has been deferred indefinitely in the 
United States, 29 the Unit 2 fuel may have to be 
disposed of unaltered. However, no commercial 

disposal sites are available for high-level trans- 
uranic wastes. In remarks before the Subcofnmit- 
tee, NRC's Denton said : 

Some of the waste will be high-level 
waste, as opposed to low-level waste. And 
I'm sure you're aware there's considerable 
difficulty in the country today with dis- 
posal of low-level waste. It's not clear to 
me that the depositories for high-level 
waste will be available in the time frame 
of cleanup, and it may become necessary 
that some of these [will have to] be stored 
onsite until that issue is resolved. (67) 

At present, low-level waste at TMI is being 
handled in two ways. First, interim facilities have 
been constructed onsite to meet the immediate need 
for the storage of those low-level wastes extracted 
in the processing of radioactive water with 
EPICOR. However, the capacity will not be suffi- 
cient to accommodate all the anticipated wastes 
from cleanup. Moreover, the TMI site cannot be 
used for long-term storage, since it fails to meet 
requirements as to the depth of the water table and 
geological characteristics necessary to assure that 
any accidental leakage of radioactive material will 
not spread in the environment. 

Second, some waste is being disposed of offsite. 
The Nuclear Engineering Co. (NECO) , which op- 
erates disposal sites in Richland, Washington, and 
Beatty, Nevada, is accepting the TMI-2 wastes at 
its Richland facility. TMI also has a contract with 
the Chem-Nuclear Company to transport, handle 
and deliver wastes generated by decontamination 
of the auxiliary, fuel handling and diesel genera- 
tor buildings and other areas as "requested by 
Met Ed." 

How many truck shipments will ultimately be 
required is uncertain. During the Subcommittee's 
November 8 hearing, Wilson of GPU Service Cor- 
poration said : 

I don't think we have the total number of 
that [shipments], because to some degree 
it depends what form it [waste] will even- 
tually be removed from the site, but cer- 
tainly will amount to be in the many, 
many hundreds of shipments. (68) 

The Bechtel study had made a rough estimate 
of 2,440 truckloads (see Table 1). (69) 

! * High-level waste is legally defined in 10 CFR 50 Appendix F. Generally speaking, it is that concentrated liquid or 
dried waste obtained from the first cycle of extraction during the reprocessing of irradiated reactor fuels. Low-level 
waste is everything that is not high-level. 

28 Reprocessing is a technology in which spent fuel is chemically processed to remove plutonium and depleted 
uranium for recycling as fresh fuel. President Carter has placed a moratorium on commercial reprocessing. Conse- 
quently, spent fuel Is now stored at the various sites in spent fuel pools. 


TABLE 1. Estimated number of radioactive waste ship- 
ments for different categories 

-V umber of 

standard tf eight 

Type of tcatte truck shipments 

High-level resins 37 

Intermediate level i to 7 drums at 10 curies per 

drum, per truckload 500 

Low level 15 to 18 drums at less than 1 curie per 

drum, per truckload 300 

Dry compacted low-level wastes 50 to 60 drums per 

truckload 1-250 

Major components (air coolers, pump motors, etc.) 

(approximately) _ 

Total shipments 2- 440 

This table was developed based on the assump- 
tion that the krypton 85 and processed water 
would not need snipping and does not include 
shipment of the core. 

Because of its limited volume, the water from 
the auxiliary building can be stored and disposed 
of with only minor difficulty. However, when the 
entire cleanup task is considered, the volume be- 
comes substantial. For example, about 1 million 
gallons are in the auxiliary and containment build- 
ings combined 250.000 and 700,000 gallons re- 
spectively. 30 In addition, the utilitv estimates 
another 7 to 9 million gallons will be used for 
cleanup. Of this amount, up to about 5 million 
gallons of processed water will have to be disposed 
of. The rest will be purified and reused during 

By May of 1980, the water in the auxiliary 
building tanks was being processed by EPICOR- 
II at an average rate of 3 gallons per minute. This 
system operates much like a home water softener. 
It contains a series of demineralizing filters, each 
of which in succession removes radioisotopes from 
the water and traps them on a resin bed. The bed 
is attached to a liner that is removed and stored 
once saturated. 

The processed water is being held in clean water 
storage tanks, in part because of public opposition 
to its discharge into the Susquehanna 1 River. 31 
Other options being considered for its disposal 
include reuse in other decontamination tasks on- 
site. evaporation or solidification in cement. 

Waste solidification will have its first TMI-2 
application in connection with the saturated resin 
beds of the EPICOR-II system. When these are 
changed, the water is drained from the system, but 
a small amount remains behind. Ordinarily, this 
residual water is partially removed prior to ship- 
ment by vacuum de-watering techniques. 32 

The States which regulate commercial radio- 
active waste disposal sites have set a standard that 
less than 1 percent of the volume of the radio- 
active waste received can be water. While this 
standard can be met with vacuum de-watering, 
errors in de-watering sometimes result in greater 
than acceptable percentages of water. Conse- 
quently, as an additional step toward safe handling 
and shipment of these TMI wastes, the XRC has 
ordered that the resins from EPICOR-II be solid- 
ified in cement to immobilize the radioactive waste 
completely. (70) 

The licensee plans to install cement solidification 
equipment sometime in 1980 and will put the 
wastes into 55-gallon drums. (71) These can either 
be stored in underground silos onsite or shipped 
offsite for burial. 

Nonetheless, the NHC maintains that the licensee 
has, or can construct, enough radioactive waste 
storage areas onsite to preclude the need for ship- 
ping the solidified EPICOR-II waste offsite. (72) 

As noted, one commercial low-level waste site 
was still available in June 1980, and disposal of 
low-level wastes should not pose a problem in the 
near future. Further, despite concerns expressed 
by the communities surrounding TMI (73), the 
XRC has said that onsite storage of some wastes 
from the cleanup will not pose any greater health 
haiard to the workers, the public or the environ- 
ment than it does at other commercial plants. (74) 

The longer term storage of TMI wastes is, how- 
ever, a problem. The XRC has not yet dealt di- 
rectly with the possibility of the closure of the 
remaining low-level waste disposal sites, although 
it has asked DOE to prepare a contingency plan 
for that event. (75) 

The issue of closure goes beyond TMI. Perma- 
nent closure after 1980 would directly affect all 
nuclear power plants. Onsite storage would quickly 
become exhausted, and eventually the plants would 
have to close down. 

With respect to the core, while the Federal Gov- 
ernment is seeking solutions to long-term storage 
(e.g., through DOE). TMI may reauire a nearer 
term solution. GPU has asked for DOE's assist- 
ance in determining how the reactor fuel can be 
transported and what can be done with it, since 
that Department is presently responsible for find- 
ing solutions to the overall nuclear waste problem. 
DOE is studying various options for storing the 
TMI core, to' be completed by July 1980. 33 Poten- 

" These figures reflect the volume in April 1980. 

11 See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Cleanup." pp. 201-204. 207. 

* Vacuum de-watering is accomplished by lowering the pressure to a point where the water will naturally boil 
off. The resulting vapor is condensed into non-radioactive water, leaving behind the radioactive resin beds. 

a The Subcommittee staff was informed by Herbert Feinroth. Chief. Nuclear Reactor Evaluations Branch, Divi- 
sion of Nuclear Power Development, DOE. that his division is funding the study and that only the technical feasibility 
of storage options is under review. 


Storage vaults for radioactive wastes resulting from cleanup 


tial interim technical solutions being considered 
include : 

Storage in fuel pools onsite or elsewhere; 

Storage in shielded facilities; 


An additional problem affecting interim fuel 
storage is the abnormal chemical state of the de- 
bris, which consists of a combination of zirconium, 
hydrides, oxides, fission products and possibly 
various alloys and other chemical compounds. Its 
corrosive characteristics must be determined be- 
fore the long-term integrity of storage containers 
can be assured. When asked by the Subcommittee 
about these problems. Denton said : 

I think they [core materials] will present 
some very interesting technical questions. 
In what "form . . . these high-level wastes 
should be solidified. How should this 
really high-level waste be contained . . . 
you heed to know . . . what type of envi- 
ronment are they expected to be in over 
their lifetime, in order to put them in 
proper form to begin with. (76) 

Commissioner Hendrie also commented on the 
storage options for the core : 

. . . there are about two options in the time 
frame we are talking about. One of them 
is to keep the casks onsite for some pe- 
riod . . . and the other one would be for 
one of the major Government processing 
centers to accept those casks . . . until we 
finally get on to solving the high-level 
waste problem in this country. (77) 

In summary, the large quantities of low-level 
wastes being generated by the ongoing cleanup at 
TMI-2 pose substantial challenges in terms of 
long-term storage, shipment and disposal. There 
are uncertainties regarding the continued availa- 
bility of offsite disposal sites. Storage and disposal 
of the highly radioactive, damaged reactor core 
pose even greater difficulties, given the uncertain 
future of high-level waste disposal in this country. 


A principal focus of the Special Investigation 
was the safety of workers performing the cleanup 
operation. As noted, the immediate threat from 
any further accidents at the plant is principally to 
the workers. 514 Further, several health physics 3 * 
problems have already occurred. 

One instance involved violations of health phys- 
ics regulations. On March 29, 1979, radioactive 
samples were drawn without using standard health 
physics protective procedures. This event marked 
the first of a series of such problems. The NEC, in 
the cover letter to its notice of violation and intent 
to impose civil penalties on Met Ed, commented 
that "there was a significant departure from nor- 
mal health physics procedures and practices.'' (78) 
It went on to say, ". . . we believe that insufficient 
measures were taken to control health physics ac- 
tions and decisions during the course of the 
accident." (79) 

Then, in late August 1979. five workers perform- 
ing maintenance work on a contaminated water 
storage system in the TMI-2 auxiliary building 
were exposed to levels of beta radiation in excess 
of XRC limits. The exposure was to their skin and 
extremities. Personnel monitoring the radiation 
were apparently not aware of the potential for 
high beta radiation. (80) 

After a preliminary investigation, the Subcom- 
mittee sent a letter to XRC Chairman Hendrie on 
September 27, 1979. The letter, referring to com- 
ments made by Denton and others, stated : 

Mr. Denton also said that "even today we 
are still continuing to experience prob- 
lems with the utility's [Metropolitan Edi- 
son's] attention to health physics." He 
expressed specific concern about the util- 
ity's "failure to make adequate survey 
and [in] understanding the radioactive 
environment in which they are operat- 
ing." [3S] 

Lending further credence to Mr. 
Denton's expressions of concern is a recent 
XRC critique of the utility's follow- 
through to correct radiation protection 
problems identified at the site. In an XRC 
report obtained by the investigation. D. 
R. Xeely. Region I Lead Radiation Spe- 
cialist, and J. R. White, Radiation Spe- 
cialist, stated that the company "is not 
able to effectively administer the radia- 
tion protection program commensurate 
with the degree of radiological risk which 
is presently being encountered. Such risk 
is expected to increase as the recovery 
efforts expand." (82) 

Acting Chairman Kennedy responded to the 
Committee, saying : 

With regard to a related matter, your let- 
ter of September 27 correctly points out 

" See pp. 165, this section. 

s The discipline of protecting people from unwarranted exposure to nuclear radiation is called health physics. 
Health physicists seek to devise means of providing protection. In this instance, these protective steps broke down and 
led to safety problems. 

"Problems with Met Ed's radiation safety program were highlighted as early as March 20, 1979 (prior to the 
accident) when Met Ed contracted with the Nt'S Corporation to perform a study of its health physics program. (81). 


that the staff has in the past identified a 
number of deficiencies in the licensee's ra- 
diation protection program which, as yet, 
have not been corrected. As discussed in 
more detail in enclosure 2, the staff has 
been pursuing these matters over the past 
several months and will continue to do so. 
Neither they nor the Commissioners will 
permit expansion of the recovery pro- 
gram until these important issues are suit- 
ably resolved. Again, the principal con- 
cern related to these deficiencies is in 
providing adequate protection for the 
workers on the site. (83) 

In October 1979, GPU Service Corporation be- 
gan upgrading its health physics organization and 
contracted with Rockwell International to per- 
form engineering studies for an onsite health 
physics and radiochemical analysis laboratory. It 
has been putting together a health physics team 
and intended to have the entire organization in 
place by the summer of 1980. 37 

The NRC also responded to the health physics 
problems. Denton organized a "blue ribbon team" 
(84) of nationally prominent U.S. health physi- 
cists to advise the Commission. Its report, dated 
December 1979, outlined the special health physics 
requirements of the cleanup and assessed GPU and 
Met Ed's radiation protection program. (85) The 
team concluded : 

The panel confirmed several manage- 
ment and technical deficiencies in the pro- 
gram. Recent major GPU/Met Ed com- 
mittments [sic] and actions demonstrated 
a major change in management attitude. 

The panel concluded that exposures to 
personnel can be maintained to as low as 
is reasonably achievable while limited 
preparatory recovery work continues and 
when further needed improvements are 
implemented as needed, the radiation 
safety program will be able to support 
major recovery activities. (86) 

At the same time the NRC panel also stated that 
"The present radiation safety program has sub- 
stantial deficiencies and requires significant correc- 
tive actioH to support major recovery activi- 
ties." (87) 

Four factors contributed to its conclusions. 
First, NRC staff had identified a number of man- 
agerial and technical weaknesses in the program. 
Second. Robert C. Arnold, a Senior Vice President 
of GPU and Met Ed, told the panel that despite all 

the comments and recommendations the utility had 
received from various sources, including its own 
contractors and consultants, it had been unable to 
establish an effective radiation safety program. 
(88) Third, the panel's interview with utility per- 
sonnel at all levels revealed a common feeling that 
safety was not respected. (89) Fourth, the utility's 
program lacked organization and direction. (90) 

The Panel was unable to evaluate the merit of 
the utility's plan to upgrade its program. It noted 
that "The upgrading of the radiation safety pro- 
gram for major recovery activities is not complete. 
The Panel cannot judge the capability of this fu- 
ture program." (91) The Panel, however, did state 
that the management of GPU and Met Ed had 
demonstrated a strong commitment to improve the 
radiation safety program and that work could pro- 
ceed safely on a limited basis under existing 
management. (92) 

The significant problem of protecting workers 
will continue. The number of technicians at the 
site is far greater than during normal operations. 
Usually, plant personnel, even during a refueling 
outage, number only about 800. 38 As of April 1980, 
there were about 1,100 people onsite to work on 
TMI-2. Sixteen contractors were involved in onsite 
radiation protection alone, and more than twice 
this many contractors were onsite for all purposes. 
(93) There were also numerous representatives of 
various government and industry groups. 

In addition, the magnitude of contamination and 
radiation with which individuals must work is 
many times greater than previously faced. Further, 
there is an unusual aspect to the situation at TMI 
a preponderance of beta radiation, a result of the 
cesium-137 and strontium-90. It is more common, 
around operating reactors, to have predominantly 
gamma radiation. 

A team of three health physicists was scheduled 
to enter the containment in mid-1980. They would 
be exposed to this beta radiation. If the krypton in 
the containment were not vented, the field would 
be expected to be approximately 400 rad/hr. If it 
were vented, it would be significantly less. The 
actual dose received would also depend on where 
in the containment the team goes. Exposure could, 
in any case, be limited by wearing layers of special 
protective clothing, and only the extremities would 
receive significant doses. 

Protective clothing does not block penetration 
by most of the gamma radiation at the Unit 2 
facility. The level of this radiation, however, was 
estimated to be low enough that workers could 
tolerate it for a few hours at a time. Thus manned 
entry into the highly radioactive containment was 

37 As of December 1970, the organization consisted of 194 people : 55 assigned to dosimetry, 89 to field operations, 
15 to radiation technical support and 35 to bioassay and management. 

38 Refueling is done periodically to replace fuel that has reached its design life and to reshuffle good fuel in the 
core. During refueling of the reactor, many more people than normal are onsite. Normally, TMI-2 has around 200 

people onsite. 


"Trailer City" : Temporary offices set up during the accident have been needed for recovery operations 

considered possible if sufficient care were taken 
and the period spent there was brief. 

When asked during the November 8 hearing 
what the total radiation dose to workers would be 
for the entire recovery, Wilson of GPU Service 
Corporation said : 

We don't yet have a total estimate of what 
we might expect of what I would charac- 
terize as a total man-rem dose of the re- 
covery operation. I would expect we 
would anticipate there would be no work- 
ers in the absence of any incident that 
would receive what's called a maximum 
allowable dose. (94) 


Subcriticality must be maintained in the core to 
prevent possible release of fission products or melt- 
ing of the core. Subcriticality is maintained by 
keeping the core covered with water that has an 
adequate concentration of boron. As long as the 

primary cooling system remains intact, it is un- 
likely that the water level will decrease to the 
point of uncovering the core. Further, some con- 
trol rods may not have melted ; if they are in place, 
they will help insure shutdown. 

Maintaining Boron 

Boron in solution can surround a core whose 
normal geometry has been lost. Calculations show 
that between 3,000 and 4.500 parts per million 
(ppm) of boron in the water will insure Subcrit- 
icality no matter what the geometry of the 
core. (95) 

As of March 1980, a concentration of around 
3,500 ppm was being maintained, controlled 
through the use of the Borated Water Storage 
Tank and the make-up and let -down systems. The 
sample of the water from the primary system is 
analvzed weekly for boron, gross radioactivity and 
acidity. GPU has stated that as long as the reactor 
fuel and control materials remain in their present 
abnormal and uncertain arrangement, the boron 
concentration must be maintained within that pre- 
scribed range to guarantee Subcriticality of the 
core and to avoid excessive heat. (96) 


Cooling the Core 

Decay heat removal is achieved by circulating 
coolant around the core. This heat naturally de- 
creases with time. At the end of April 1979, it was 
41 million watts ; by April 1980, it had dropped to 
180,000 watts, 39 still enough to heat around 7 homes 
on a winter day. If this heat were not removed, the 
reactor would heat up a few degrees Fahrenheit 
per day until the balance point referred to earlier 
was reached. 40 

As of April 1980, natural circulation was the 
method being used to remove the heat. The water 
was circulating only within the containment; as 
the building was still sealed, the chance of spread- 
ing contamination or releasing radiation was re- 
duced. Further, natural circulation lessened the 
exposure of workers to radioactivity. 

On the primary side, natural circulation in- 
volved onlv the core and steam generator "A" ; no 
pumps were being used. On the secondary side, the 
principal pieces of equipment relied upon were 
the condenser and f eedwater system. Together they 
turned the steam produced by the heat absorbed 
from the primary system into water and pumped 
the f eedwater back to the steam generator, where 
it again absorbed heat from the primary side. For 
"steaming," as this process is referred to, to take 
place, the primary system, including the piping, 
seals and pressure vessel containing the core, must 
remain intact. 

If difficulties should arise with natural circula- 
tion, two back-un cooling systems are available 
immediately. A third svstem was scheduled to be 
ready for operation in March 1980. 41 (97) 

According to GPU, one such difficulty would be 
a leak in steam generator "A." (98) If it was be- 
tween the primary and secondary sides of the ven- 
erator, radioactive contamination could get into 
the water flowing through the secondary svstem, 
creating additional radiation hazards and increas- 
ing the potential for contamination spreading 
through leaks in the secondarv svstem. Because of 
these hazards, other means of cooling the reactor 
would be sought and the steam generator shut 

Steady cooling through natural circulation could 
be. disrupted by temperature changes. As of April 
1980. the bottoms of the steam generators were 
submerged in the pool of water in the containment. 
As rlecav heat decreases with time, the coldest point 
in the svstem will shift location, leading to fluctua- 

tions in the flow paths of the coolant. These oscilla- 
tions, which would take place in the primary loops, 
could lead to lesser oscillations of flow in the core, 
with a resulting fluctuation in core temperature 
of a few degrees Fahrenheit. Although the 
amount of this temperature fluctuation is very 
slight and tends to be self -correcting, it is un- 
desirable because prudence dictates that steady 
cooling should be maintained. 42 

When coolant flow becomes unstable, temporary 
stagnation of the flow results, potentially leading 
to boron stratification differing concentrations of 
boron in the water at various levels or regions of 
the core. According to GPU, calculations indicate 
that the fluctuation in boron concentration from 
this phenomenon is onlv minor, and concern 
over any resultant recriticality is unwarranted. 

The NRC and GPU indicated that boron strati- 
fication was not expected to be a problem. (101) 
since the utility could provide adequate flow to 
mix the concentrated boron solution injected into 
the reactor coolant system so that the stagnant 
regions would not become depleted. (102) 

Backup Cooling Systems 

The first back-up system would involve the "B" 
steam generator. It uses water flow as opposed to 
steaming water is pumped through the svstem 
and absorbs heat from the primarv side with con- 
ventional heat exchangers. The leak that was iden- 
tified in the "B" steam generator during the acci- 
dent apparently has not recurred, and the "B" 
generator could be used. Because this option takes 
place in part outside the containment, it is a less 
desirable method for cooling, as it increases the 
possibilitv of spreading contamination in the plant 
fnd exposing workers to higher levels of radiation. 
The risk of a release of significant radiation to the 
environment is minimal with this system. 

The second back-up method involves the regular 
Decay Heat Removal System, which also operates 
in part outside the containment. It involves pumps 
and heat removal equipment and is the one nor- 
mally used after a reactor shutdown. It, too, is not 
being used so as to limit the spread of contamina- 
tion and exposure to workers. 

The third alternative the Mini Decay Heat 
Removal Svstem had been scheduled for opera- 
tion in March 1980. but was still not being used as 
of June 1980. In that month the NRC nnd GPU 
decided to install a long-life filter. (103) 

39 Heat and electricity are both forms of energy. The rate of energy production can be expressed in watts. 

" See p. 166. 

11 This system the Mini Decay Heat Removal System- will eventually become the principal means of cooling ; it 
is discussed in detail later. In order to brine this system into operation, GPTT Service Corporation has had to submit 
to the NRC proposed changes in the Technical Specifications of its license. The NRC must approve these. 

42 In April 1980. such oscillations in flow actuallv occurred. Thev resulted from the occasional use of the so-called 
"pressure-volume control system." The system caused just enough imbalance to start the oscillation. The oscillations 
occurred over a period of 17-18 hours and led to a maximum temlperature drop of 40-50F across the core during 
periods of complete stagnation. Eventually, the oscillations disappeared and steady cooling was re-established. (99) 
The importance of these oscillations has not been thoroughly investigated. 


This system is smaller than the regular decay 
heat removal one, as it has been built to accommo- 
date the low levels of decay heat being generated 
in 1980. If nothing unusual happens, it will be 
more than adequate to handle existing levels of 

The Mini Decay Heat Kemoval System also 
functions in part outside the containment. How- 
ever, it has much smaller piping and other equip- 
ment than the regular Decay Heat Removal Sys- 
tem, and the volume of radioactive material to be 
pumped through it will be smaller. The associated 
radiation hazard would decrease proportionately. 
Nearby workers would be exposed to significantly 
less gamma doses than result from the regular 
system, which would involve several hundred rem/ 
hr. Further, use of the Mini System would allow 
external control and monitoring of coolant condi- 
tions (both temperature and pressure) and permit 
access from outside the containment to the primary 
coolant, a capability that will be important during 
cleanup of primary system water. 

Construction of the Mini Decay Heat Removal 
System is the first of a series of actions that would 
establish independent, external control of the re- 
actor environment. According to Wilson, it "will 
be the mode of cooling until such time as the [re- 
actor] head is removed and the fuel extracted." 
(104) GPU plans to rely on this system because, 
as noted earlier, the utilitv believes that natural 
circulation could be impeded in the future. 43 More- 
over, once the reactor head is removed, natural 
circulation will no longer be possible, and a dif- 
ferent method of cooling must be used. 


Major decontamination of the plant began in 
April 1979. when Met Ed started processing the 
water that had been transferred from TMT-2 to the 
TMI-1 auxiliary building for storage. The proc- 
essing was done with a system called EPICOR-I. 44 
The water contained relatively low levels of radio- 
activity (less than one microcurie per milliliter). 

In April, decontamination of the diesel genera- 
tor building was undertaken. In May, work was 
begun at the TMI-2 auxiliary and fuel handling 
buildings. It involved nrincipallv dry and wet vac- 
uuming, mopping and wiping to remove contam- 
ination. "Workers were required to use special 
clothing and respirators. 

The accident and cleanup as of April 1980 al- 
ready had produced a variety of slightly radio- 
active solid wastes, such as clothing, rags, ion- 

exchange resins, swipes and contaminated air 
filters, much of which has been buried at the Rich- 
land. Washington site. (105) 

Radioactive Water in the Auxiliary Building 

Cleanup of this building has been progressing 
well. (106) As a result of decontamination efforts, 
surface contamination in selected areas had been 
reduced by a factor of between 100 and 1,000 be- 
tween May and October 1979. Since October, more 
of the building has been cleaned in order to achieve 
levels of radioactivity comparable to the already 
decontaminated areas. Although the water in one 
tank in the building was still reading more than 
1,000 rad/hr, most of the others were reading from 
20-30 rad/hr. (107) Processing of this water is 
being done with EPICOR-II. 45 

The cumulative exposure of workers in the aux- 
iliary building through November 1979 was 50 
person-rem. (108) By comparison, approximately 
45 person-rem are received per year by workers 
at a plant which is being refueled. (109) The 
amount of radioactive water in the auxiliary build- 
ing had been increasing prior to November 1979 * 
because of non-radioactive water leaking into the 
system. While the additional non-radioactive water 
lias had a diluting effect, it too has become con- 
taminated, thereby adding to the volume of water 
needing to be processed. 

The leakage is mostly from pumps in the build- 
ing that are part of the river water service sys- 
tem. (110) At present, these pumps cannot be 
sealed because they are too close to high-radiation 
areas. Prior to November 1979, the amount of 
leakage had been fluctuating from as low as 300 
gallons per day to as high as 2.000 gallons (the 
average was 800-1,000 gallons/day), depending on 
the use of various systems on any dav. By April 
1980, the leakage was better controlled, and the 
average ranged between 200-450 gallons per day. 

(111) The water drains into the contaminated 
sumps in the auxiliary building where it is col- 
lected and added to the new tanks that were in- 
stalled in the fuel handling building to contain 
contaminated water. 

The total usable capacity of the storage tanks 
to contain this leaking water is 415.000 gallons. 

(112) One week after the accident, the design of 
the EPICOR-II water processing system was be- 
gun, in part to address the growing problem of 
storage of radioactive water. The system was 
scheduled for use in mid-May 1979. At that time. 
th city of Lancaster. Pennsylvania, brought 
suit 4T to gain an injunction against the discharge 

See p. 178. 

" Similar in design to EPICOR-II, EPICOR-I was brought to the site immediately after the accident. 
See pp. 181. 182. 

* In November 1979. with EPICOR-II operating, the water could be processed faster than it was leaking in. and 
the total amount of radiation was being reduced. 

<T See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery." pp. 201-204. 


Decontamination underway 

of processed water into the Susquehanna Eiver. 
(113) (Lancaster is about 23 miles from TMI and 
gets its water at a point 8 miles downstream 
of the site.) Another suit was filed by the Susque- 
hanna Valley Alliance against both the utility and 
the NRC. (114) As a result, the NRC prohibited 
any further water processing and discharge with- 
out its authorization. The NRC's action raised a 
potential problem of storage of the contaminated 

The Subcommittee recognized the need for a de- 


cision on the issue of water storage. On Septem- 
ber 28, 1979, it sent a letter to the Chairman of the 
NRC, stating: 

We understand that the currently esti- 
mated capacity for storing this water in 
Unit 2 will be exceeded in approximately 
40 days. We understand that alternate 
storage options exist, including pumping 
the contaminated water into tanks in Unit 
1 or bringing additional storage tanks on 

to the Island. Please advise us what op- 
tions are being considered and how they 
would be implemented. 
* * * 

We bring these matters to your attention 
because of the serious public policy issues 
they pose, not only for the Three Mile 
Island region, but also with respect to 
XRC's ability to handle this matter. (115) 

By October 1, only 28,600 gallons of storage 
capacity remained iii the tanks installed in the 
fuel handling building. On October 16, GPU said 
that approximately 23,000 gallons of storage ca- 
pacity remained. (116) 

The XRC. after receiving the Subcommittee's 
letter, held a meeting on October 4, 1979. XRC staff 
told the Commissioners that any significant fur- 
ther delay in decisionmaking could lead to several 
problems'. (117) First, the tanks could overflow, 
spilling water into the auxiliary building sump, 
from which it would flow back into the full sump 

tank system and ultimately begin to fill the build- 
ing. Second, the contaminated water from Unit 2 
might have to be transferred to the uncontami- 
nated tanks in the TMI-1 unit (the two units share 
certain water storage facilities), thus spreading 
contamination to Unit 1. 

Possible solutions besides further processing in- 
cluded acquisition of additional tanks or pumping 
the water in the auxiliary building back into the 
containment (118) Both options had serious draw- 
backs. (119) 

On October 22, the NRC decided to permit Met 
Ed to process the contaminated water with 
EPICOR-II. 48 However, the Commission also de- 
cided that the processed water would have to be 
held up pending a later decision on disposal. (120) 
The clean tanks, also located in the nearby fuel 
handling building, now hold processed water. 

Because the EPICOR-II system was basically a 
new design, the extent to which it could remove 
radioactive contamination was uncertain. 49 

" See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery." pp. 201-203, 206-207. concerning the claim that the XRC illegally 
"segmented" cleanup decisions in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1968 i and other regulations. 

Thi* capability is expressed by a quantitative measure of effectiveness called the decontamination factor for 
the process ; that measure is the ratio of the concentration of radioactivity in the contaminated water to that in the 
processed water. 

EPICOR-II water purification syste 


In testimony on November 8, Wilson told the 
Subcommittee that the decontamination factor 
for EPICOR-II was better than anticipated : 

The decontamination factors [of cesium 
137] are about two orders of magni- 
tude [50] better than the design basis of 
the system. We expect to be able to con- 
tinue to process with this system and are 
putting in place on the site the additional 
storage tankage for the clean water. (121) 

He also said, 

We are not now, or do we have immedi- 
ate plans to discharge that water. In fact, 
they are under a probation [sic] from the 
NRC to not do so. (122) 


The Containment Atmosphere 

The next step in recovery of Unit 2 is removal 
of the estimated 45,000 curies of krvpton 85 in the 
containment atmosphere. (123) GPU Service Cor- 
poration has considered several options, including 
controlled venting to the atmosphere, cryogenic 
processing, charcoal adsorption, and gas compres- 
sion. In addition, selective absorption has been 
proposed. Venting has become a very controversial 
step, as it involves releasing the gas to the atmos- 
phere. While the last four options would avoid 
direct releases, they have other drawbacks, as 
described below. 

Controlled Venting 

In the first option, the gas would be released 
from the building by venting it at a controlled rate 
over 34 days, through the plant vent stack, 160 
feet above ground level. Venting would take place 
at times when wind and other meteorological con- 
ditions are most favorable for atmospheric dis- 
persion. (124) 

GPU has maintained that this controlled release 
can be performed in compliance with all current 
Federal radiation standards. 51 (125) Its estimate 

is that the highest calculated dose to an individual 
would be 0.1 millirem of gamma and 5 millirem of 
beta radiation for the total purge (the standards 
are 10 and 20 millirem, respectively) , 52 

The NRC discussed the magnitude of the release 
at a meeting on November 29, 1979. One issue was 
comparative doses : how much radiation would be 
released in the venting at TMI-2 in comparison 
with normal releases from either a pressurized 
water reactor (such as TMI) or a boiling water 
reactor. 53 

The NRC staff told the Commission during the 
meeting that the controlled venting of krypton 
from the TMI-2 plant would have fewer radiologi- 
cal consequences than do the releases of krypton 
and all other noble gases M over 1 year from a 
single, normally operating boiling water reactor. 
(126) The release would also be 10 times less than 
the annual routine releases from certain Federal 
military installations. 55 

On August 22, the Critical Mass Energy Proj- 
ect, a public interest group that opposes nuclear 
power, petitioned the NRC to prevent the con- 
trolled venting. Richard Pollock, its Director, sent 
a letter, dated August 22, 1979, to Chairman Hen- 
drie, saying: 

According to the Bechtel Corporation 
consultant's report for the licensee, "con- 
trolled" venting of radioactive gases could 
lead to contamination levels for persons at 
the boundary site reaching .14 millirems 
of gamma radiation and 14.8 milli- 
rems [56] of beta radiation during a 30-day 
period. NRC criteria sets the yearly maxi- 
mum dosages for the general population 
at 10 millirem for gamma radiation and 
20 millirem for beta counts. 
* * * 

... if there was an accident during vent- 
ing, the TMI-2 area residents conceivably 
could receive much larger dosages than 
those contemplated by Bechtel and GPU. 

60 Two orders of magnitude equal a factor of 100. 

" 10 C.F.R. 60, Appendix I, B.I, states "The calculated annual total quantity of all radioactive material 
above background to be released from each light-water-cooled nuclear power reactor to the atmosphere will not result in 
an estimated annual air dose from gaseous effluents at any location near ground level which could be occupied by in- 
dividuals in unrestricted areas in excess of ten millirads for gamma radiation or 20 millirads for beta radiation." 

"The safety analysis discussed here pertains to an estimated inventory of 44,000 curies. In its environmental 
assessment the NRC used a figure of 57.000 curies, based on weekly sampling of the reactor building atmosphere since 
the accident. The licensee's figure (44.000 curies) is based on the measured concentration at the time its report was 
issued (November 13, 1979). The conclusions reached by the licensee would probably not be significantly different if 
the higher figure were being used. 

" See "Technical Glossary," Appendix E, pp. 367, 373. 

54 Noble gases routinely escape from reactors and include helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon. 

* For example, the Savannah River facility located in South Carolina releases 4.3 X 10" Ci of Kr-8;5 per year. The 
maximum calculated whole body dose to an individual at the plant perimeter from the krypton is 0.0026 millirem. (127) 
Standards for those facilities are set by DOE. 

"These radiation dose predictions were based on preliminary estimates made by Bechtel Corp. in its July 1979 
Planning Study for containment entry and decontamination. (128) Hence, they should not be expected to agree with 
the later estimates cited above 


illation doee from 

The nragedni per 
dental relentK is uncertain, as it depends on the 
extent of dte leak and prevailing wind and other 
tArr conditions. However, according to Voll- 
r who spoke at a meeting of tin XRC on Xo- 


... if TOU are involved in an accident 
where yon released all die krypton cur- 
rently in containment, using average 
wteorougy, you would get a whole-body 
done in tie environment of less dtan 10 
MR [mfflirem] and a skin dose on the or- 
der of 200-500 MR. so even if all [the 
krypton] were released in an accident 
case, die offsite consequences would be not 
large even with respect to perhaps Part 20 
[die Federal Guidelines]. (110) 

Hence, although diere is strong public distrust 
about venting, XRC estimates indicate minimal 
efects for the surrounding population. 

even in die event of an accidental release at one 
time of all the krypton in the containment. (131) 
Because the discussion of venting has led to con- 
siderable public pmbuie to evaluate other options 
< see -Social Issues in Recovery " pp. 199-200. 201 ). 
Governor Tbornburgh asked that the Union of 
Concerned Scientists pet faint an independent 

studv. It concluded. " direct radiation-induced 

health ejects from exposure to krvutou 85 even 
from the Met Ed >TRC proposed venting would be 
absent." (132) However, die report stated, ~TCS 
nrmftfnA* mgmm** any procedure that would re- 
sult in iltiaum . . . being deliberately exposed to 
at levels comparable to those ex- 
. . dw venting proposal. (1- 
e to <KmiiiiA public stress, FC> 
osal? for elevated venting:, each of 
pq*rf*l of greatly reducing die 
sure. One option involved construc- 
inerator stack to create a buoyant 
t other involved use of a tethered 
t an vfjtimAftl stack made of thin 

pected f 
Citing a 
made tw 
which h 
tion of 

::/:. - 

DO! veth vlenel one foot in diameter. UOOO-&000 ft. 
high. (13*) 


The second option for krypton removal involves 
cryogenic tmeessine. The *Kr-R5 would be lique- 
fied, distilled and stored in bottles. An advantage 
of this method is that it could significantly de- 
crease or eliminate the radiation released from the 
plant at the time of removal. However, the utility 
has estimated that it would take 20 to 30 months 
to buQd the necessary equip- ?>5) Further. 

it is unclear what would be done with the bottles. 

A safety analysis and environmental report pre- 
pared by GPF outlined the disadvantages : 


s highly concentrated 

[Kr-85l. Any leakage or component fail- 
ure could result in significantly greater 

amounts of uncontrolled radioactivity 
release than die other systems. (136) 

* * * 

There is no significant operating experi- 
ence with a cryogenic distillation system 
at any operating light water reactor. Ac- 
dinglv, this is not a proven technology 


for reactor application. (137) 
The study concluded dot 

When compared to controlled piugwg u* 
the containment building, the alternate 
cryogenic treatment system is considered 
to* be less safe it is less reliable, and 
clearly has the potential for uncontrolled 
releases of radioactivity with higher radi- 
ation exposures. (138) 

During the November 29 XRC meeting, die 
issue of cryogenic cleanup was also addressed. 
XRC estimated that if this option were selected, it 
would take 20 months to become operational after 
a decision was made to proceed. (139) 

Charcoal Adsorption 

The third option, charcoal adsorption, could also 
radiation releases from the plant, Dur- 

ing the same Commission meeting, Vollmer ex- 
plained its use : 

The technology . . . is one simply of put- 
ting the contaminated gas over charcoal, 
preferably in a chilled state, preferably 
under some bigher-than-atmosphere pres- 
sure, to get maximum effectiveness, and 
then the charcoal which would adsorb the 
krypton gas, but not retain it indefinitely, 
would have to be encapsulated and then 
you would have to [dispose of it]. (140) 

Yollmer continued: 

I might indicate that the charcoal volume 
required for this would be about the same 
as the size of the volume of the contain- 
ment building, about two million cubic 
feet. What the staff tells me is something 
on the order of a third of the charcoal 
available in the country. (141) 

According to GPF. the fourth option, gas com- 
pression, similarly would greatly lessen die 
amount of krvpton-85 released into the atmos- 
phere. On die other hand, as the GPF safety anal- 
ysis report noted : 

Storage of krypton at high pressure for 
long periods of time in 28 miles of piping 
the likelihood of uncontrolled 
npared to purging containment. 

The extensive time required to build and 
install a gas compression system would 
increase the likelihood of inadvertent and 
uncontrolled leakage from the existing 


containment building, and thereby cause 
higher exposure to personnel. (142) 

The report concluded : 

When compared to controlled purging of 
the containment building, the alternate 
gas compression system is considered to 
be less safe it is less reliable and clearly 
has the potential for uncontrolled release 
of radioactivity with higher radiation 
exposures. (143) 

This option would require construction of a $50- 
$75 million facility over a two- to three-year pe- 
riod. (144) The facility would include a 160-foot 
high building to house the equipment and approx- 
imately 24 miles of 36-inch diameter high pressure 
piping. (145) 

Selective Absorption 

In a briefing before the NRC on April 25, 1980, 
representatives of the Department of Energy and 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory presented a tech- 
nical assessment of an alternate method for treat- 
ing the krypton. (146) The selective absorption 
method, instigated four years ago by a DOE re- 
quest that a mobile radwaste disposal system be 
developed, is partly a spinoff from technology de- 
veloped for the removal of krypton from reproc- 
essing facilities. 

A report written by Oak Ridge National Labo- 
ratory (ORNL) estimates that development of 
such a system for use at TMT-2 would require 13 
months and from $9 to $12 million, on a crash pri- 
ority basis. (147) 

In testimony before the Commission, ORNL 
stated that it believed venting was the preferred 
option. (148) The selective absorption method is, 
in principle, a zero-release svstem according to 
ORNL. but venting would still be preferable since 
it would allow early entry into the containment. 

The selective absorption method was independ- 
ently assessed in two other studies. A professor at 
the Michigan State Universitv wrote in a letter 
to Commissioner Gilinsky. "I have tentatively 
concluded that the best method of those available 
is the selective absorption process system. . . ." 

Science Applications, Incorporated, also per- 
formed a review and found that there was little, 
basis to choose between selective absorption and 
controlled purging with regard to phvsical health 
effects and that the purging option was preferred 
because it would be less stressful to the population 
than the selective absorption method. (151) 

NRC Consideration of Options 

On March 12, 1980, as planned, the NRC staff 
submitted their environmental assessment of the 
venting option. They concluded that controlled 
purging was the preferred alternative. They pro- 
posed a period for public review, to be followed by 
a meeting at which the public's views would be 
heard. Thereafter, the Commission was to make a 
final decision on venting. 57 
Containment Cleanup and Core Removal 

The containment must be decontaminated so that 
it can be entered and the highly radioactive core 
dismantled and removed. The water in the contain- 
ment also poses a health physics and safety 

Containment Entry and Water Removal 

The plans outlined in the July 1979 Bechtel re- 
port considered the use of robots for entering the 
containment. (152) The utility has since concluded 
that radiation levels will be low enough to allow 
manned entry for brief periods. (153) 

A team of three health physicists, two GPU 
employees and three backup members, was trained 
for this job. The individuals had been selected on 
the basis of their knowledge of the layout of the 
containment and of health physics, understanding 
of the operations to be performed and physical 
fitness. The team will carry out a number of tasks, 
such as surveying for radiation, assessment of con- 
tamination and observation of the conditions in- 
side the containment. Their analysis will be the 
basis for planning further entry and decontamina- 
tion. The team had completed its training by mid- 
March 1980 (154) and was awaiting NRC ap- 
proval of its procedures. 

On May 20, 1980, workers encountered an 
unexpected problem when they attempted to enter 
the containment for a 30-minute inspection. Entry 
was thwarted after 15 minutes of effort when the 
containment door beyond the eouipment airlock 
failed to open. (155) The door depends on func- 
tioning of an electro-mechanical system. As of 
June 1980, the NRC had not determined whether 
the door was stuck because of the failure of elec- 
trical equipment, mechanical equipment, rusting 
inside containment, or combinations of these. Test- 
ins: on a similar airlock door was underway in 
order to attempt to identifv the problem. 

After the team conducts its assessment, the next 
step will be to clean up the radioactive water 
within the containment and the reactor. 88 The util- 
ity is planning to process these highly radioactive 
liquids (between 100 and 275 microcuries per cubic 
centimeter) using a submerged demineralizer that 

17 See "Social Issues in Recovery." pp. 199-200. 201, and "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," pp. 206-207, for 
a discussion of events subsequent to the staff's venting recommendation. 

58 Although the core will continue to leak radioactive contamination into the coolant, cleaning the water will greatly 
reduce the amount of radiation and thus lessen exposure of workers to it. 


was originally developed for defense application. 
(156) The system is much like EPICOR-II, but 
uses inorganic rather than organic resins. It will 
be placed in the spent fuel pool where the water 
will shield it from the radiation. 

In testimony before the Subcommittee on No- 
vember 8, Wilson said that specialized engineering 
and development of this system for use at TMI is 
underway. He said it is expected to be operational 
in late 1980. (157) One existing system that might 
be suitable for use at TMI consists of a self- 
contained unit within a shipping cask that is li- 
censed for shipments of up to 300,000 curies. It 
would allow direct shipment of the wastes, thereby 
minimizing handling. (158) 

An evaporation system will be required to clean 
up the liquids used in decontamination. These 
liquids contain a soap-like material on which 
EPICOR's ion exchange technique does not work 
well. The evaporation system being procured by 
GPU Service Corporation can process 30 gallons 
per minute. It boils the water; the steam is then 
condensed and sent through a polishing demineral- 
izer 59 designed to produce very pure water. This 
water will be reused during decontamination. 

As noted, there were 700,000 gallons of radio- 
active water in the containment as of December 
1979, a level that has been increasing because of 
the leaking pump seals inside the containment. In 
testimonv before the Subcommittee on Novem- 
ber 8. Vollmer said : 

. . . [given! the leakage rate of about 500 
gallons per dav, and I believe it's actually 
lower than that now, we would -project ap- 
proximately a foot or so rise in six 
months. (159) 

A more precise estimate by GPU established the 
rate of leakage at less than 230 gallons per day, 
equivalent to a one-half to one inch increase in the 
water level per month. (160) The leaking cannot be 
reduced until the new primary coolant pressure 
control co and heat removal systems are operable. 
The rising water, as noted, threatens the motors 
that operate two criticnl isolation valves. Bflsed 
on photographs taken before the accident that 
show the height of the motors, it was calculated 
that, as of November 1979. the motors were ap- 

proximately two feet above the water level. In 
November Vollmer told the Subcommittee : 

... I don't see anything in the near term, 
say within a year, that would have any in- 
fluence on the safety of operations. (161) 

By April 1980, the bottom of the valve bodies 
were in contact with the water 61 and a failure of 
the valve, given the humid environment, is possi- 
ble. If the valves become submerged or if the elec- 
tric actuators fail in the humid environment, (162) 
control over them will be lost, and they will remain 
in whatever position they were prior to failure. As 
they have been kept closed, they would fail in that 
position. Access to primary system coolant would 
then be lost, and neither the decay heat removal 
system nor the new Mini Decay Heat Removal Sys- 
tem could be used. This would be undesirable be- 
cause it would leave only the existing deteriorating 
equipment for core cooling. In addition, decon- 
tamination of the primary system water would be 
greatly inhibited. 

Met Ed frequently measures the water level and 
continuously monitors (meggers 62 ) the electrical 
leads on top of the valves. (163) 

Since it is important to the long-term cooling of 
the core and treatment of the primary system 
water to have one of the valves open, if difficulties 
arise, the utility will open one of the two valves so 
that it will fail in that position. If such action has 
to be taken before the NRC approves the Mini De- 
cay Heat Removal System, 63 radioactive water will 
flow into the regular decay heat removal system, 
spreading contamination in the facility. That 
spread can be limited by closing an isolation valve 
located outside the containment building. 

There also is radioactive material within the 
reactor vessel and its associated piping. The 
amount continues to increase as the coolant moves 
around the damaged core and fission products in 
the fuel are leached from the fuel. (164) This proc- 
ess is counteracted to a certain extent by continual 
replacement of the leaking radioactive water with 
clean water, which dilutes the radioactivity some- 
what. The activity level in the primary system 
water is now 275 microcuries per milliliter, essen- 
tially the same as that in the water in the contain- 

"A polishing demineralizer is the final filtering stage of the evaporator system. The relatively decontaminated 
water is "polished" in this final step. 

* The coolant pressure control system located in the fuel handling building is also used to provide make-up coolant 
to compensate for the leakage and to control the chemistry of the coolant, particularly the concentrations of boron and 
oxygen. It includes a pressurized nitrogen supply that controls pressure, and a borated water batching tank, charging 
water storage tank and independent charging pumps. It was added for the same reason that the new heat removal sys- 
tem WRS added : to avoid reliance on reactor systems that may have been damaged during the accident and that are in- 
acceihle 1-erause of their proximity to high radiation fields. 

n The valve bodies are about one foot below the actuators. 

K Meggering is the electrical monitoring of the leads. Presence of water will lead to a change in the electrical 
signal, which would be detected on a readout instrument, alerting personnel to possible degradation of the equipment 

* According to GPU. if the XRC requires a long-life filter on the Mini Decay Heat Removal System, four to six 
months will be required for installation. 


5U-058 0-80-13 

Because of the continued leaching, GPU Service 
Corporation intends to install continuously operat- 
ing purification equipment, once the reactor head 
is removed, to minimize the dose to workers. (165) 

Building Decontamination 

The next step in the cleanup process is manual 
decontamination of the inside of the containment. 
A containment recovery service building will be 
constructed adjacent to the containment equipment 
hatch to provide health physics control and isola- 
tion from the environment. 

Many techniques are likely to be employed in 
this stage of recovery, including wet and dry 
vacuuming, mopping, wiping and the use of semi- 
portable equipment such as degreasing units, ultra- 
sonic cleaners and electropolishing machines. 
(166) Conventional contamination control tech- 
niques are the technological basis for this activity. 
A decision on specific methods will be made once 
the observations and measurements taken in the 
earlier manned entry are analyzed. 

Radiation Inside the Containment 

The work force will face the greatest radiation 
hazard in this phase. Early after the accident, the 
NEC and the utility had been concerned that 
cesium 137 (Cs-137) might have been released 
from the water into the atmosphere of the contain- 
ment and then might have become extensively de- 
posited on the walls of the containment, 64 adding 
significantly to the cleanup task. (168) The radia- 
tion dose to workers would have made the health 
physics problems substantially more difficult, and 
it would have been necessary to wash the Cs-137 
off the walls remotely, using the building spray 
system in conjunction with solvents and deter- 
gents or foaming agents. 

Information obtained prior to the Subcommittee 
hearing on November 8 showed that the extent of 
airborne Cs-137 and of surface deposits was much 
less than anticipated, since less cesium was released 
into the air than estimated earlier. This means that 
the cesium is in solution in the water and can be 
cleaned up by other techniques such as EPICOE 
or the submerged demineralizer. 

As of June 1980, GPU's plans called for manual 
decontamination of the walls. In remarks before 
the Subcommittee on November 8, Wilson said, 

... a part of the plan originally con- 
ceived by Bechtel used the containment 
building spray system as a means of re- 
mote decontamination inside containment 

prior to entry. The current data suggest 
that's not required. . . . (169) 

The feasibility of this plan will depend on sur- 
veys performed by the team in the containment. 

Although attempts at direct measurements have 
been inconclusive to date, (170) preliminary in- 
dications of the condition of the containment wall 
have been obtained. A two-inch and a nine-inch 
hole were drilled through the end plates of the ac- 
cess pipes leading into the building. (171) As of 
June 1980, Oak Ridge National Laboratory had 
finished analyzing the cut-offs from the holes. Re- 
sults have not yet been released. Swipe tests 65 
around the inside perimeter of the hole and radia- 
tion surveying are also planned. These tests will 
help determine the concentration of Cs-137 near 
the hole, while the analysis of the cut-outs will be 
used in determining the efficacy of various decon- 
tamination techniques. 

Finally, the inside of parts of the containment 
has been videotaped, using equipment inserted 
through the holes. According to the NRC, the pic- 
tures show no significant damage or disruption as 
a result of the hydrogen burn that occurred on 
March 28, 1979. (172) No visible evidence of the 
accident can be seen on the portion of the contain- 
ment filmed except for some paint blistering and 
droplets of condensed water falling from the walls. 

On the basis of the limited measurements avail- 
able, the utility has estimated the radiation 
environment inside the containment building; 
(173) its figures are shown in Table 2. The figures 
in this table were estimated based on the assump- 
tion that neither the radioactive gases nor the 
liquid inside the building had been removed. 66 

TABLE 2. Estimated dose rates at various elevations 
in reactor building 

Dose rate (rad per hour) 

Elevation Location 




282ft Sump 120.0 720 840 

305ft Equipment hatch.. 3.0 400 400 

347ft Operating deck .5 400 400 

If the krypton and water are not removed first, 
manned entry will be possible only for relatively 
short times. Because of the estimated high level of 
radiation, containment cleanup (krypton and 
water removed and walls decontaminated) must 
be finished before the reactor head and core can 

M This is similar to what happens when soot adheres to buildings, discoloring them. While there is no evidence 
that cesium has migrated into the steel liner of the building, there is still a concern that some painted surfaces may 
have to be stripped to remove cesium contamination. (167) 

M A swipe test is a means of determining the level of contamination on a radioactive surface. A small piece of 
cloth-like material is rubbed on the wall and taken to the laboratory for radiochemical analysis. The test allows deter- 
mination of the relative amounts of radioactive species present. 

66 Values in the table were current through March 1980. 


be removed. The estimated radiation dose will come 
predominantly from gamma and beta radiation 
and will differ according to the elevation within 
the containment The radiation environment at the 
282-foot level is primarily the product of radiation 
emanating from the pool of water. At the higher 
elevations ( 305 and 347 feet ) . it is largel v the prod- 
uct of emissions from the krypton. If the contain- 
ment sump is drained and the krypton 85 removed, 
gamma dose rates inside the building are projected 
to drop sharply to between 0.2 and 10 rem/hr. 

For purposes of comparison, the occupational 
whole-body dose limit for an individual, as estab- 
lished by the Code of Federal Regulations, is 3 rads 
per quarter year from all sources. (174) The dose 
permitted to* the hands and feet is approximately 
18 rads per quarter year (hands and feet have a 
greater tolerance for radiation). (175) 

Using the radiation estimates, the amount of 
time that an individual can remain in each area of 
the plant without the aid of additional shielding 
can be determined. If. for example, the gamma 
radiation level were 3 rem/hr, an individual could 
work no longer than 1 hour in that region. 

Reactor Head and Core Removal 

This phase of the cleanup is the most uncertain, 
since the condition of the severely damaged core 
is unknown and because subcriticality of the re- 
actor must be monitored and maintained while 
work proceeds on the core. A plan for removing 
the reactor head " and core was being prepared 
by Bechtel. (176) 

Barring legal and economic difficulties. CPU's 
goal was to begin removing the head 11 months 
after the containment was entered and to begin 
removing the fuel 20 months after entry. The 
XRC's preliminary estimate, based on CPU's 
plans, was that core removal might not be complete 
until March 1984 if the krypton in the containment 
were treated crvogenically instead of being 

The plan for removal of the head and core has 
been slow to develop. Certain steps are funda- 
mental to the job. but the specific techniques to be 
employed will depend upon now uncertain details, 
(177) For example, it is clear that the reactor 
head must be removed to gain access to the core. 
It is less clear, however, whether special tools and 
procedures will have to be developed to disengage 
entangled control rod drives. That will only be- 
come clear once the containment can be entered 
and tests performed. The special tools can only be 
designed once the nature of the problem is 

According to GPU. the Bechtel report on the re- 

moval of the head (which was released in May 
1980) contains initial planning for the removal of 
the reactor vessel head and core, describes some of 
the available technical options and also identifies 
the preferred general approach to the job. 

Two steps are necessary before the reactor head 
can be lifted off. First, a means of removing decay 
heat other than by natural circulation must be 
established, since natural circulation will not work 
with the reactor head removed. As noted, the Mini 
Decay Heat Removal System will probably be 
used. Second, the coolant must be decontaminated 
and a continuous filtration system hooked up in 
order to reduce the radiation field for workers. 
Once the containment building and primary water 
are decontaminated, access to the reactor head 
area needs to be unencumbered by high radiation 

Head Removal. Ordinarily, for example dur- 
ing reactor refueling, removal of the reactor ves- 
sel head is relatively straightforward. In the case 
of Unit 2, however, the control rod drives that 
penetrate the head may be entangled with the dam- 
aged core. GPU Service Corporation plans to 
place horoscopes 68 into the instrument or control 
rod thimbles (penetrations made for control rods) 
so that their condition can be evaluated visually. 
If there is resistance when the control rods are 
lifted, the drives will have to be disconnected prior 
to removing the head. This task will involve, if 
necessary, the removal of those head penetrations 
which are not jammed first, in order to create 
openings in the reactor head through which the 
entangled drive-trams can be reached. The prob- 
lem rods can then be cut loose and the head re- 

All activities involving head and core removal 
will be tested on mock-ups. As noted, special tools 
will have to be designed and built, based on needs 
to be defined as the cleanup proceeds. This type of 
specialized tool design has been carried out suc- 
cessfully during core removals at other reactors 
which have experienced accidents. 89 

Core Removal. The largest single source of 
radioactivity is the reactor core, estimated to con- 
tain 6 billion curies. Although it is generally easier 
to control the spread of contamination from solids 
such as the core than it is from liquids or gases, the 
core at TMI has been severely damaged and poses 
hazards that will require special handling. 

The physical configuration of the core is un- 
known. As a result of the accident, at least 90 per- 
cent of the fuel rods have burst. (178) Periodic in- 
jection of cold water into the extremely hot core 

*"' The reactor head is bolted on the pressure vessel. It is massive but is designed to be removable. 

* A horoscope is a device similar to a periscope, which allows remote viewing of objects. It has its own light source. 

" See "Three Mile Island in Perspective : Other Nuclear Accidents," Append!* A, pp. 221-226. 


(close to 4,000 F in some regions) probably caused 
both the cladding and the reactor fuel itself to 
shatter like glass. Some of the materials in the 
core are thought to have melted. 70 This material 
includes some of the silver-indium control rods as 
well as the stainless steel in which these rods were 
enclosed. These molten metals may have slumped 
to the lower portions of the core and solidified 
there, forming a casting of sorts. 

It is difficult to determine with certainty what 
the core looks like today. Some analyses suggest 
the core resembles an empty bowl with fragmented 
pieces of fuel and Zircaloy interspersed between 
intact remnants of the fuel pins at the bottom of 
the core. (179) The fuel assemblies further from 
the center may be entirely intact, forming the 
walls of the bowl. The upper portion of the fuel 
in the radial center of the core was probably de- 
stroyed and displaced, forming the cavity of the 

Great caution will have to be taken during core 
removal to guarantee subcriticality. The boron 
concentration must be maintained continuously at 
3,500 parts per million until the core is out. While 
the exact procedures that will be used are uncer- 
tain, past experience points to some possible 

All handling and manipulation of the core will 
be performed remotelv and under clean, borated 
water, with the aid of underwater television. In- 
tact fuel assemblies, damaged assemblies and loose 
debris will be encased in metal cans underwater 
and their ends welded shut with underwater weld- 
ing equipment. The cans will then be moved 
through the fuel transfer port to be placed in 
either a shipping or storage cask. Several inde- 
pendent neutron monitors will be put in place to 
detect any increase in neutron activity, a sign of 

With respect to the cost of fuel removal, the 
July 1970 Bechtel estimate for fuel removal equip- 
ment and disposal was $23 million. (180) 

Worker radiation dose rates during core re- 
moval are expected to be comparable to those en- 
countered during normal plant refueling. 71 (181) 
Since more workers will be exposed over a longer 
time, however, the collective dose to the work 
force will probably be greater than for refueling. 
Nonetheless, the dose for this phase is expected 
to be less than during decontamination of the con- 

Removal of the core is the last step in cleanup. 
At this point the full degree of damage can be as- 
sessed and a decision made as to the plant's future. 


Four options have primarily been studied in 
connection with TMI-2's future. 72 (182) This sec- 
tion discusses some of the technical factors. 73 

Decommissioning retiring the plant perma- 
nently is a step normally taken after 30^0 years, 
the projected life of a similar plant. If, however, 
the facility can be reused, the utility has several 
options including: to repair the existing nuclear 
unit ; to replace it with a new nuclear unit ; or to 
convert it to a coal-fired or other fossil-fueled 
unit. 74 

Obviously, the decision will depend in part on 
the condition of both the nuclear steam supply 
system (NSSS) 75 and the rest of the plant. While 
rough estimates of the extent of the damage to 
the NSSS and the plant exist, an accurate assess- 
ment will not be possible until cleanup is complete. 
At that time, radiation levels should allow rela- 
tively unrestricted access throughout the contain- 
ment, and a detailed evaluation can be made. 

The technical decision will also depend on other 
factors, most particularly finances. In considering 
the financial factor, it should be noted that some 
basic costs pertain to all options. As GPU's Presi- 
dent, Herman Dieckamp, noted in response to 
questioning by the Subcommittee: 

. . . cleaning up the plant . . . has a cost 
associated with it of at least $200 million 
out of that estimated $320 million for the 
total . . . costs. So that is there irrespec- 
tive of return to service. (184) 

As of April 1980, GPU maintained that damage 
to the facility was within a range that would per- 
mit the plant to be recommissioned either with a 
nuclear or a coal-fired steam supply system. (185) 
Bechtel had estimated the physical effects of the 
accident in its report, issued July 1979. (186) The 
report stated : 

Excluding the conditions that existed 
during the hydrogen detonation, the 
physical effects of elevated containment 
pressures and temperatures during the 

""The presence of any previously molten materials can only be guessed at until the core can be viewed. 

" During refueling, many workers are inside the containment. The resulting dose to the work force is therefore 
higher than in normal plant operations. 

72 This section is intended to provide an idea of what the final stage of recovery disposition of the facility entails 
and generally what options have been considered most seriously. 

78 See subsequent subsections for details on financial, social and legal and regulatory factors. 

"Gilbert and Associates performed a study for GPU Service Corporation that included cost estimates for natural 
gas-fired units, but noted that "Coal would be the primary fuel due to current and proposed restrictions on oil, and the 
unknown availability of natural or synthetic gas in the quantities needed for the installation." (183) 

75 The reactor, steam generator and primary system piping, etc. 


March 28, TMI-2 accident on the contain- 
ment structure, systems and components 
were probably minimal. 

In localize'd areas, the possibility of 
some instrumentation damage, hydraulic 
snubbers leaking, grease fittings/lubri- 
cated fittings dripping oil, etc., does exist- 
The pressure and temperature . . . con- 
ditions that existed . . . do not appear to 
be detrimental to the equipment in the 
containment for the short time period in 
question. (187) 

The extent of damage done to the primary sys- 
tem by thermal shock had not yet been deter- 
mined" Similarly, the extent to which hydriding 76 
of the steel had led to embrittlement was not 
known. These factors can only be known after 
entry of the containment. 

There is also the possibility further damage to 
the plant has occurred or will occur subsequent to 
the accident. It includes radiation damage to the 
insulation on the electrical wiring and corrosion 
of components submerged in the pool of water. 
However, if the damage is relatively limited, as 
anticipated by Bechtel. replacement of many of 
the major components within the plant will not 
be necessary. 


Adequate experience is available on decommis- 
sioning: plants. (188) Studies on the costs of de- 
commissioning: plants of comparable size, at which 
accidents have not occurred, are about $30 million. 
(189) The studv prepared for The President's 
Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island 
put the cost of decommissioning TMI-2 at $192 
million, with a range between $157-$241 million. 
(lOO 1 ) According to the studv, about half the ex- 
penditure would be associated with the disassembly 
and removal of structures." 

If the plant is decommissioned and retired, the 
utility would still have the option of replacing 
Unit 2 with a new facility. The cost of a nuclear 
unit, including interim replacement power costs. 
is estimated at between S2.3 and $3.1 billion. (192) 
The comparable cost of a coal-fired plant is 
estimated at between $1.9 and $2.6 billion, in 1979 
fixed dollars, reflecting the lower construction cost 
of that type of plant. 


GPU has stated that it would prefer to put Unit 
2 back into operation using fully the undamaged 
portions of the facility, but has not decided 
whether a nuclear or coal-fired unit will be select- 
ed. (193) Its investment in TMI-2 was over $1 
billion, and the plant had been in commercial oper- 
ation for only 1 year at the time of the accident. 
Decommissioning would mean retirement of an 
essentially new facility. Thus, the utility has an 
economic incentive to reuse the plant. 

The cost of repairing the unit and returning it 
to nuclear service was estimated by consultants to 
The President's Commission at between $1.0 and 
$1.9 billion, with construction running from 45 to 
69 months (the figure includes the costs of replace- 
ment power). (194) The higher figure is based on 
replacement of the entire nuclear steam supply 

GPU has looked into converting the plant to a 
coal-fired unit. Dieckamp explained the utility's 
conclusions during the November 8 hearing : 

. . . with respect to the study of alterna- 
tives to returning it as a nuclear plant, we 
have felt that ... it was going to be im- 
portant for us to have good solid detailed 
studies that had, indeed, evaluated the 
options. And so. we have been looking at 
an option that would convert the plant to 

coal firing. 

* * * 

It becomes possibly a very complex un- 
wieldy configuration, and perhaps, not a 
very productive plan. (195) 

Insofar as environmental constraints and costs 
were concerned, 

TVe are . . . looking at ... the capacity 
of that local air basin to handle coal fir- 
ing, and in addition, there are the prob- 
lems of handling ash and scrubber 

sludge . . . 

* * * 

I think it's probably true that the incre- 
mental cost to get the next 900 megawatts 
of power is probably less if one reconverts 
or maintains it as a nuclear plant. (196) 

Gilbert and Associates, Inc. studied the coal 
conversion option 78 for the GPU Service Corpora- 
tion. (198) It estimated the cost at between $0.7 
billion and $1.0 billion, with a construction time of 

* Hydriding is similar to oxidizing : it is a chemical reaction at the surface of the steel. It causes embrittlement of 
the steel. 

" The study cautions that ". . . our assessment should he interpreted with the caveat that the present assessments 
may change as better data become available in the future." (191) 

a The report contains the following caveat : "Moreover, the numbers presented in the report are subject to major 
changes in the course of the detailed analysis which is expected to be made in the Phase II study. Consequently, no 
judgement as to technical or economic feasibility can be reached on the basis of this report." (197) 


from 42 to 48 months. 79 Their estimate did not in- 
clude energy replacement costs, the expense of off- 
site sulphur dioxide removal equipment and facili- 
ties, decommissioning and other items. 

According to the various studies, repairing the 
nuclear plant is the least costly, followed by re- 
placement with a coal-fired plant, followed by re- 
placement with a nuclear plant. These figures are 
summarized in Table 3. 80 

TABLE 3. Cost in billions of dollars 


Repair or replace nuclear reactor in existing 
facility $1.0-$1.9 

Replace nuclear reactor with coal in existing 
facility $0.7-$1.0* 

Decommission existing facility, build new coal 
plant $1.9-$2.6 

Decommission existing facility, build new nu- 
clear plant $2.3-$3.1 

Excludes large energy replacement costs. 


Kecovery has raised a number of financial ques- 
tions, such as who will pay for cleanup, the finan- 
cial condition of the GPU companies, the possibil- 
ity of bankruptcy and the effect of bankruptcy on 
cleanup. More than 1 year after the accident, 
there were still no clearcut answers to any of the 


The two nuclear facilities at Three Mile Island 
are 50 percent owned by Met Ed, 25 percent by the 
Pennsylvania Electric Company (PENELEC), 
and 25 percent by Jersey Central Power and Light 
Company (Jersey Central), three utilities which 
are in turn owned by GPU. 81 (200) The NRG li- 
censes authorize Met Ed to operate the two units 
and to receive, possess and use special nuclear 
material for that purpose. (201) 

The major electrical generation transmission 
and distribution facilities of the three utilities 
are physically interconnected, and the GPU com- 
panies operate as a single, integrated electric util- 
ity system. Thus, the energy generated at TMI-1 
and TMI-2 before the accident was distributed 
throughout the GPU system. (202) 

Since the accident, the GPU companies have 
been facing serious financial problems, despite sub- 
stantial assets. 82 The financial problems are re- 
flected in the declining value of the parent com- 

pany's common stock. Before the accident, it was 
selling on the New York Stock Exchange for more 
than $17 a share (205) ; in mid-May 1980, the price 
was between $5 and $6. (206) Bond ratings of the 
three GPU utilities also have fallen. Before the 
accident, Moody's Investor Service had given Met 
Ed and PENELEC bonds an "A" rating, Jersey 
Central bonds a "Baa" bond rating (207) ; in 
March 1980, PENELEC and Jersey Central's rat- 
ing had dropped to "Ba," Met Ed's even further 
to"B." (208) 

The GPU companies' principal financial prob- 
lem has been cash flow. (209) Their problem was 
created by the need to pay for cleanup costs and to 
purchase electric power to compensate for the lost 
output of Units 1 and 2. 

In early 1980, GPU's working estimate was that 
decontamination of Unit 2 83 would cost at least 
$200 million, and there were indicators that revised 
cost estimates would be far higher. 84 (211) One 
management consulting firm predicted that total 
cleanup costs could be "half a billion dollars or 
much more." (212) 

The major ongoing expense, however, has been 
replacement power. GPU reported that during 
1979, the utilities' costs ran from $20 million to 
over $35 million each month, (213) figures that 
may increase. 

The GPU companies' $4.9 billion in total assets 
do not provide a simple solution to the companies' 

"The President's Commission did not estimate the cost of rebuilding Unit 2 as a coal facility. The estimates of 
schedule and cost prepared by Gilbert and Associates are not directly comparable to those of the President's Commis- 
sion, since different assumptions were used in formulating the results. Gilbert and Associates also estimated the costs 
of conversion to natural gas. This option was found to be less desirable. The costs ranged from $446 million to $500 
million. (199) 

* The figures in this table are all approximate and do not reflect comprehensive cost analyses. 

" See "Prior to the Accident," pp. 50-51. 

82 For 1979, GPU and its three utility subsidiaries reported more than $4.9 billion in consolidated assets, an increase 
of more than $300 million over 1978. Of these, Met Ed accounted for about $1.3 billion, PENELEC about $1.5 billion and 
Jersey Central about $2.1 billion. (203) The GPU system is the 14th largest investor-owned utility system in the nation 
in terms of both assets and revenues. (204) 

8J As discussed earlier, cleanup is only the first step in dealing with Unit 2. GPU still must decide whether to 
rehabilitate, convert or decommission the facility. Each option will entail additional costs. See "Technical Aspects of 
Recovery," pp. 188, 189. 

84 Pursuant to agreement, Met Ed. PENELEC and Jersey Central are jointly responsible for all operating and 
maintenance costs associated with TMI. including those related to the accident, in the same proportion as their owner- 
ship shares 50 percent, 25 percent and 25 percent respectively. (210) 


cash flow problems. GPU's only significant assets 
are the common stocks of its three subsidiaries; 
(214) their assets in turn consist mostly of facili- 
ties and equipment and are not liquid. (215) Fur- 
ther, according to GPU's Treasurer, John G. 
Graham, neither GPU nor its utility subsidiaries 
have had large cash reserves to draw upon in order 
to help pav the post-accident costs. 85 (219) 

The GPU utilities are paying for the accident- 
related costs from three principal sources insur- 
ance, loans and utility operating revenues. 

The companies had $300 million in property 
damage insurance for Unit 2, the maximum cover- 
age available, and they expect the full amount to 
be available to pay for cleanup. (220) 

As of May 1980, cleanup costs were well below 
the maximum coverage. 8 * However, insurance set- 
tlements sometimes had lagged behind expendi- 
tures, contributing somewhat to the cash flow 
problem. ST 

The GPU companies had no insurance to cover 
additional replacement power costs. 88 They have 
been trying to meet this major expense out of their 
operating revenues and have requested rate relief 
from State regulatory authorities in order to aug- 
ment that revenue. 89 

In June 1979. both the Pennsylvania Public 
Utility Commission (PUCK which regulates Met 
Ed and PENELEC. and the New Jersey Board 

of Public Utilities (New Jersey Utilities Board), 
which regulates Jersey Central, granted sub- 
stantial rate increases to cover replacement power 
costs. Nevertheless, for at least a year after the 
accident, the rate increases did not match these 
utility costs. 90 (226) This was because State 
regulators had granted less than full relief and 
because GPU's cost estimates proved too low. 91 

In April and May 1980, New Jersey and Penn- 
sylvania regulators granted substantial additional 
rate relief designed finally to provide full and cur- 
rent recovery of replacement power costs. 92 

Although rate increases for replacement power 
have been substantial, they have been offset to 
some extent by other decisions by the Penn- 
sylvania and New Jersey regulators. Most promi- 
nently, the utility regulators have removed from 
the utilities' rate bases all capital and operating 
costs associated with TMI-2 and TMI-1. 93 

Since insurance and operating revenues have 
been insufficient to meet cash needs, the GPU com- 
panies arranged to borrow money to help cover the 
cash flow gap between existing expenses and fu- 
ture revenues. They have obtained short-term 
loans from a consortium of banks and some long- 
term financing through institutional investors. 

On June 15, 1979, GPU and its subsidiaries 
entered into a revolving credit agreement with 45 
banks, including Citibank, N.A. and Chemical 

15 According to consultants working for the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, the GPU 
companies' financial structure prior to the accident was not unique. The consultants concluded that : 

GPU [and its subsidiaries] followed general industry practices and. after reconciling individual company dif- 
ferences, probably was not materially different in its financing practices, and results achieved, from the other 
electric utilities which had facilities in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. (216) 
According to GPU's Graham. 

The virtually universal pattern for major electric utilities in the U.S. that own, as do the GPU companies, 
generating, transmission and distribution facilities is to maintain virtually no balances of unrestricted cash 
working capital . . . cash balances are generally only those required to be maintained as compensating bal- 
ances for lines of credit and/or for outstanding short-term borrowings. (217) 
In part, he said, this is because 

The rate regulatory process has not permitted and is not intended to permit an electric utility to accumulate 
large cash reserves to deal with the aftermath of an accident. (218) 

"According to an NRC staff study, if Unit 2 is decommissioned, the property damage insurance will cover cleanup 
costs, but not the costs of decommissioning, such as dismantlement or entombment. If the unit is restored to service, 
restoration would be covered by any insurance remaining (up to the $300 million limit) after decontamination. (221) 
GPU's estimates indicate cleanup and restoration costs may greatly exceed $400 million. (222) 

87 According to GPU's treasurer, through October 31, 1979. approximately $83 million had been expended for con- 
rainiug and cleaning up the accident, while insurance recoveries to that date were only $20 million. (223) 

* Since the accident, members of the nuclear industry have formed an insurance pool through a mutual insurance 
entity called Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited (NEIL) to help cover replacement power costs in the event of another 
nuclear accident. Membership in NEIL will be available to electric utilities, including publicly-owned utilities, that have 
an incurable interest in a nuclear power generating unit or in a nuclear unit's output. (224) 

* See. generally. "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," pp. 212-216, for a discussion of State regulatory pro- 
ceedings since the accident. 

* In December 1979. GPU's treasurer said that the "net outflow for replacement power purchases was running at 
the rate of approximately $12 million per month." (225) 

" In June 1979. Pennsylvania and New Jersey each approved rate relief that covered only about 85 percent of the 
estimated replacement power costs of the three utilities. (227) The June 1979 rate increases had been based on utility 
estimates of replacement power costs over 18 months. (228) Since the utilities had assumed that TMI-1 would be back in 
service by January 1980. (229) their estimates of need over the 18-month period proved unduly optimistic. (230) The 
companies also underestimated price increases in oil. which adversely affected the costs of purchased power. (231) 

'-" In early June 1980. GPU said that it had spent about $300 million to replace lost output at TMI but had received 
only $150 million of the increased costs from customers. (232) 

" In June 1979. the Pennsylvania PUC and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities each removed the Unit 2 costs 
but permitted retention of Unit 1 costs. In April 1980, New Jersey removed Unit 1 costs, and in May 1980, Pennsylvania 
did likewise. (233) 


Bank. 94 The agreement established a line of credit, 
initially totalling $412 million, with sublimits for 
each GPU company. (235) As of late May 1980, 
total borrowing could not exceed $292 million 
without a favorable vote of the banks represent- 
ing 85 percent of the credit line. (236) 

The banks required that GPU put up substan- 
tial collateral to back up the loans. For example, 
GPU had to put up all of the common stock of its 
subsidiaries. According to a Citibank official, be- 
fore the accident, the banks would have given 
GPU revolving credit without requiring 
collateral. (237) 

The agreement authorizes the banks to suspend 
further credit, declare a default and accelerate the 
due date of outstanding loans if, in the opinion of 
the majority, there is a "material and adverse" 
change in the actual or prospective financial con- 
dition of the borrower that "substantially in- 
creases the risk" that the loans will not be repaid 
when due. (238) If the majority determines that 
"the revenues to be available" to a borrower "will 
be insufficient to assure its ongoing financial via- 
bility," they may suspend further credit, although 
they may not, for this reason alone, declare a de- 
fault or accelerate the due date. 95 (240) 

In late May 1980, after favorable ra*e rulings in 
Pennsylvania and New Jersey, GPU officials 
estimated that the loans would not reach the $292 
million credit limit before the end of 1980, at which 
time the banks would have to vote whether to in- 
crease the credit limit. (241) 

In late June 1979, PENELEC and Jersey Cen- 
tral each issued $50 million worth of first mort- 
gage bonds in order to obtain some long-term fi- 
nancing. The bonds were sold through private 
placement to a group of major insurance com- 
panies. In each case, the net proceeds were to be 
used either to pay outstanding short-term bank 
loans or construction expenditures or to reimburse 
the bond issuer's corporate treasuries for funds 
previously expended. (242) In October 1979, Jer- 
sey Central issued another $47.5 million in first 
mortgage bonds under similar terms. 96 (244) 


One effect of the stipulations on short- and long- 
term borrowing has been to tie continued lending 
to the rate-rulings of State regulators. During 
Subcommittee hearings on November 9, 1979, 
GPU's John Graham testified : 

I would say if we receive adequate and 
timely rate relief, I believe that Metro- 
politan Edison Co. and the other two 
operating companies of GPU will remain 
financially viable. 

* * * 

With that hypothetical, favorable action 
by the Pennsylvania Commission, I be- 
lieve that the banks will stay with us; 
Metropolitan Edison will have access to 
bank credit; GPU can contribute in the 
form of leaving retained earnings in 
Metropolitan Edison Co. or by GPU 
using part of the revolving credit agree- 
ment to make borrowings at the GPU 
level and to put that money into Metro- 
politan Edison Co. as that might be nec- 
essary. (245) 

The lending banks have given similar testimony. 
Officials of Citibank and Chemical Bank told the 
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in Feb- 
ruary 1980 that the PUC's decisions would "collec- 
tively determine" the lending banks' confidence in 
the GPU companies as viable entities to whom 
continued credit should be extended. (246) 

The Securities and Exchange Commission 
(SEC) has been following GPU's borrowing ar- 
rangements closely, pursuant to its statutory 
duties. 97 (248) It, too, has pointed out the impor- 
tance of rate relief. On November 9, 1979, SEC 
Commissioner Loomis testified before the Sub- 
committee : 

Senator HART. Does the data you have 
just presented indicate to you GPU is in 
sound financial condition overall? 

M Before the accident, the GPU companies had informal lines of credit totalling $225 million at 80 diffrent banks. 
The reason for a written revolving credit agreement, according to bank officials, was that under the informal arrange- 
ment any one bank could have unilaterally ceased to fund its line of credit, which would have left the other banks 
"deeply concerned" and could have created a "cascading effect," with one cancellation leading to cancellations by the 
others. The revolving credit agreement was designed to prevent this by setting up written procedures to insure the 
lending banks acted "in concert." (234) 

* The GPU companies have continued to maintain some informal credit lines with various banks. However, under 
the revolving credit agreement, the amount of debt outstanding under these external lines cannot exceed $15 million. 

"All bonds had a 20-year maturity; PEXELEC's bore interest at 11% percent per year, Jersey Central's 12 per- 
cent per year (June issuance) and 11% percent per year (October issuance). 

All of these bonds are subject to mandatory redemption in specified situations ; that is, they must be repurchased 
by the issuer at face value prior to the maturity date. One situation would be if a bank participating in the revolving 
credit agreement refuses to make advances to the utility. (243) 

97 GPU is a holding company subject to regulation under the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, 15 U.S.C. 
79 et seq. According to SEC Commissioner Philip A. Loomis, Jr., one of the Act's purposes is ". . . to require that 
the members of holding company systems be soundly financed without too high a level of debt . . . By requiring proper 
financing, the act and regulations seek to keep each utility company highly solvent and most unlikely candidates for 
bankruptcy, except under extraordinary conditions, which may . . . [exist] here." (247) 


LOOKIS I will make an introductory 

answer. Its capitalization is appropriate 
for its operations, we believe, and it seems 
to me ... the particular problem of GP 
and Metropolitan Edison is the fact that 
with both of these nuclear plants down 
and not operating, they have to buy elec- 
tricity from other sources, and that elec- 
tricity is very expensive, and the problem 
is whether or not their revenues will carry 
the cost of obtaining purchased power. 

The Director of the SEC's Division of Corporate 
Regulation, Aaron Levy, also testified on this issue. 

Senator HART. . . . assuming the re- 
placement power costs will be covered by 
the rate base for the utility, in your judg- 
ment, should GPU be able to sustain the 
estimated $300 to $400 million cost of the 
TMI cleanup ... 

LENT. On the basis of the ... [data] 
we have, and if adequate rate relief is 
granted. I can't see any reason why the 
system should not be able to absorb what- 
ever the cleanup costs may be. (250) 

The regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey 
have indicated their awareness of the link between 
their rate-making decisions and the financial con- 
dition of the GPU companies. (251) Their deci- 
sions have reflected an attempt to provide the 
utilities with needed rate relief without making 
customers bear an unreasonable or inequitable 
share of the utilities' costs. (252) 

Thus, for example, on April 1, 1980, the New 
Jersey Board of Public Utilities rendered a deci- 
sion in which it said : 

It is obvious that this availability of 
funds [from the lending banks] is uncer- 

tain and contingent on the banks' reaction 
to regulatory action taken in Xew Jersey 
and Pennsylvania. (253) 

It also said : 

The Board [of Public Utilities] clearly 
recognizes the serious financial condition 
of ... [Jersey Central]. This Board will 
endeavor to work toward [preserving 
Jersey Central] ... as an ongoing con- 
cern to avoid the potential devastating 
impact of insolvency or bankruptcy. 98 

As of late May, rate adjustments by the New 
Jersey Utilities Board had raised Jersey Central's 
rate levels by some $293 million, roughly 48 percent 
over the utility's pre-accident levels. About $82 
million of the" increase was attributed to TMI. 

In May 1980 the Pennsylvania PUC granted 
PENELEC and Met Ed significant rate in- 
creases, stating that their decision provided "an 
adequate framework for Met Ed's recovery" and 
that it was Met Ed's burden to "convince its bank 
creditors that it ... has the will and the ability to 
rehabilitate itself." (258) 

At the end of May, rate adjustments by the 
Pennsylvania PUC had raised Met Ed's rate levels 
by some $150 million, 50 percent over pre-accident 
levels ; " about $143 million was attributed to TMI. 
(260) The rate levels for PENELEC, which did 
not have to make substantial post-accident pur- 
chases of replacement power had increased about 
$19 million, 4.2 percent over its pre-accident levels. 
All of this increase was attributed to TMI. (261) 

Despite the utility regulators' actions, it re- 
mained uncertain in late May how far the efforts 
of the utility regulators would go toward resolving 
the GPU companies' financial difficulties. 100 

** Shortly before this decision. Coopers & Lybrand, an accounting firm, had submitted a report on the 1979 consolidated 
balance sheets and related consolidated statements of GPU and its subsidiaries. The auditors warned that 

The Corporation [GPU] is unable to determine the consequences of the accident . . . and of the response of 
rate-making and other regulatory agencies to that accident 

* * * 

The Corporation's subsidiaries are currently not receiving a level of revenues sufficient to assure their ability 
to continue as a going concern. The continuation of the Corporation as a going concern is dependent upon ob- 
taining adequate and timely rate relief and maintaining and increasing the availability of credit under the 
revolving credit agreement . . . The eventual outcome and effect of the foregoing on the consolidated financial 
statements cannot presently be determined. (255) 

Similar warnings were contained in the separate reports prepared for two of the three subsidiary utilities, Met 
Ed and Jersey Central. The report for PENELEC. however, did not include the latter, more serious, warning quoted 
above. (2561 

* At the time of the accident. Met Ed had received approval for but had not yet implemented certain rate increases. 
In the aftermath of the accident, these increases never went into effect. Assuming these increases had been implemented 
at the time of accident. Met Ed's percentage increase in rates between that time and late May 1980 would have been 
30.3 percent rather than 50 percent. (259) 

"* On May 15. 19SO. the banks wrote to GPU saying that rate rulings in April and May had been "significantly respon- 
sive" to many of the borrowers' needs but that "substantial questions" remained as to the borrowers' ongoing financial 
viability. The bank indicated particular concern over the removal of Unit 1 costs from Met Ed's rate base. (262) See 
"Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," p. 216, for further details. 



Proceedings are underway before the NRC to 
determine whether Unit 1 may be returned to serv- 
ice. 101 If Unit 1 is returned to service, replacement 
power costs may drop an estimated $14 million per 
month. (263) Moreover, the restart of Unit 1 could 
well cause the Pennsylvania and New Jersey util- 
ity regulators to return Unit 1 capital and operat- 
ing costs to the utilities' rate bases. (264) These 
costs had accounted for about $56.5 million in 
annual revenues to the three utilities. (265) If Unit 
1 cannot be brought back to service, the GPU com- 
panies will finally have to decide how permanently 
to replace Unit 1's energy output at a reasonable 

As of late May, formal hearings were not ex- 
pected to begin before the fall, and there was no 
firm date for a final decision. (266) 


At the Subcommittee's November 1979 hearings, 
GPU's Treasurer Graham stressed that he had "no 
reason to believe that Met Ed will become insol- 
vent." 102 (268) Nor did GPU's President Dieck- 
amp "see the situation where we perceive to have 
bankruptcy of Met Ed to be in the best interest of 
GPU." (269) Graham also has stated that bank- 
ruptcy would be "seriously adverse" to "investors 
in the securities of the GPU companies." (270) 

The lending banks have indicated that bank- 
ruptcy of the GPU companies would not neces- 
sarily be in their best interest either. According to 
February 13, 1980 testimony of a Citibank official : 

From our background, what we do know 
of [utility bankruptcy] we feel very 
strongly it's not likely, as we've stated in 
our testimony, to benefit anybody but the 
legal profession. (271) 

These statements provide some reassurance, but 
business considerations change, and if one or more 
of the GPU companies fails to pay its debts as they 
come due, bankruptcy cannot be ruled out. 


A corporation does not necessarily close down 
and liquidate its assets under bankruptcy law. The 

company may instead go through a judicially- 
supervised reorganization while it continues to do 
business. 103 (272) 

SEC Commissioner Loomis advised the Subcom- 
mittee that "as a practical matter" a utility com- 
pany such as Met Ed, which is providing electric 
power to the public, could not "simply close down 
and turn off the lights and liquidate its as- 
sets." 10 \ (274) 

Loomis also testified, however, that in the event 
of Met Ed's bankruptcy there was no assurance the 
utility's revenues would be directed to cleanup : 

. . . [Bankruptcy] would raise some very 
difficult, unsettled questions under the 
new Bankruptcy Act as to who would get 
whatever revenue comes in; whether it 
would go to cleanup or whether it goes to * 
paying off bonds is unsettled under the 
present law. Though this is a brand-new 
law, I think the courts would decide it 
right, but there would be a lot of litiga- 
tion. (275) 

GPU's Treasurer gave similar warnings about 
the uncertainties of bankruptcy, noting that credi- 
tors would likely argue against the use of utility 
revenues for purchasing replacement power or for 
prosecution of the TMI-2 cleanup efforts. (276) 

The question of Met Ed's bankruptcy raises the 
issue of what responsibility the remaining GPU 
companies would have for cleanup. 

According to a memorandum on a staff inter- 
view, GPU^ Treasurer had "committed GPU to 
cleaning up TMI-2 no matter what circumstances 
transpired." (277) When asked about this at Sub- 
committee hearings, Graham replied : 

As I recall the context in which we were 
discussing the issue with your staff, we 
were talking about the three operating 
companies working together outside of a 
bankruptcy or an insolvency of one of 
those three companies, and I was saying, 
and I continue to say, we would take all 
steps that we can and within our power to 
do the cleanup job. . . . (278) 

During the Subcommittee hearings, GPU Presi- 
dent Dieckamp similarly indicated that because of 
the "many uncertainties," he could not unequivo- 
cally commit GPU's resources to cleanup. (279) 

101 See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," p. 212, for a more detailed discussion of this proceeding. 

103 A debtor corporation may voluntarily commence bankruptcy proceedings. Involuntary bankruptcy proceedings 
may be instituted against a debtor corporation by creditors. (267) 

""Under 15 U.S.C.A. 79k (f) (Supp. 1980), If an action were commenced in Federal court for bankruptcy reorga- 
nization, the SEC would have the right to be heard concerning the appointment of a receiver or trustee for a registered 
holding company such as GPU, and the SEC could itself be appointed. Any reorganization plan would have to be ap- 
proved by the SEC before it could become effective. Even without commencement of a bankruptcy proceeding, a holding 
company like GPU may submit a reorganization plan to the SEC, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 79k (e), and the SEC would 
have the power to approve the plan and present it to a Federal court for enforcement. 

104 If a bankruptcy liquidation proceeding were commenced, a party in interest could ask the court to convert it to a 
reorganization proceeding. Moreover, the debtor would have a one-time absolute right to convert it to a reorganization. 


In light of GPU's stated position, the Subcom- 
mittee Chairman said : 

... I think what our concern is if GPU 
will not stand behind that obligation and 
Met Ed does go into insolvency or receiv- 
ership what entity is legally obligated to 
maintain . . . that plant, and keep the core 
cool . . . [W]e are trying to figure out here 
whether it is Met Ed's responsibility. 
GPU's responsibility, the NRC's respon- 
sibility, the State of Pennsylvania's re- 
sponsibility, the Congress' responsibility, 
or whose responsibilities it is. And on the 
answer to that question, in my judgment, 
could well rest a large part of the future 
of that industry. . . . (280) 
Subsequent to the hearings. Graham sent the 
Subcommittee a letter setting forth the "prelim- 
inary results" of an investigation into whether 
GPU. PENELEC and Jersey Central would be 
liable for cleanup costs if Met Ed were to enter 
bankruptcy reorganization proceedings. (281) 
Without ever stating "no," he gave an assortment 
of reasons why the three remaining GPU com- 
panies might not be liable. 105 One suggestion was 
that, at most, only Met Ed might be held legally 
responsible for cleaning up the facility, even 

though the three utilities jointly own the Unit 2 
facility and pay for operating expenses. 


At the time of the accident, the NRC did not 
require that licensees have sufficient insurance or 
other financial resources to deal with a nuclear 
accident. 106 Xor did it require that a holding com- 
pany's assets be legally committed to cover any 
cleanup costs at a subsidiary's nuclear plant. (284) 

When this point was raised during the Sub- 
committee hearings, the NRC Commissioners ex- 
pressed interest in the idea of ensuring that suffi- 
cient funds be available for cleanup of an acci- 
dent, but did not indicate that they had taken any 
steps to that end. 107 Less than 3 weeks after the 
hearings, the Commission directed the agency's 
Executive Director for Operations to study al- 
ternative approaches to assuring such arrange- 
ments, including the possibility of requiring in- 
surance coverage and "a commitment of a holding 
company's assets for accident recovery." (286) 

As suggested earlier, cleanup efforts by the GPU 
companies would not necessarily stop in the event 
of bankruptcy proceedings. Those proceedings pro- 
vide a method for determining the bankrupt's 

1(0 Graham's letter asserted that : 

"(a) The Atomic Energy Act, as amended, does not on its face impose a clear statutory obligation on the owner or 
a nuclear facility to clean upon the consequences of an accident and the regulations adopted by the XRC do not on their 
face impose such an obligation. Similarly, the license for TMI-2 does not expressly impose such an obligation. While 
the GPU companies do not dispute the existence of such an obligation and intend to meet it if permitted to do so, the 
question as to whether such an obligation exists might have to be resolved in litigation if there were to be reorganiza- 
tion proceedings. 

"(b) Assuming that such an obligation exists, there is nothing in the Atomic Energy Act or regulations or license 
which would cause such an obligation to be other than an unsecured general claim and, as such, subject to the prior 
liens of the mortgage indentures securing the first mortgage bonds of the TMI-2 owners. 

"(c) Although the licensees of TMI-2 are Met Ed. Jersey Central and PEXELEC, the license grants only Met Ed 
the power to operate TMI-2 and to receive, possess and use special nuclear material for that purpose. Resolutions of 
the potential questions referred to in subparagraphs (a) and (b) without litigation would appear to be even more 
doubtful in the case of Jersey Central and PEXELEC. 

"(d) PEXELEC and Jersey Central have an agreement with Met Ed whereby they have each agreed to provide 
25 percent of the cost of operating and maintaining TMI-2, and Met Ed is to provide 50 percent of such costs. It is not 
clear whether, if Met Ed were involved in bankruptcy proceedings, it could use its revenues (which have been pledged 
to secure its bonds) or other mortgaged property to pay for its share of such costs. If Met Ed were able to provide for 
its share of such costs and Jersey Central and PEXELEC were not themselves in reorganization, such contract would 
call for pro rata payments by Jersey Central and PEXELEC. although counsel for one of the intervenors in the Jersey 
Central proceedings has questioned the validity and effectiveness of that agreement. It may also be argued by someone 
that the contract does not cover cleanup costs unless they are a part of maintenance costs incidental to restoring TMI-2 
to service . . . 

"(e) GPU is not a co-licensee under the operating license and does not have an agreement with Met Ed. As pre- 
viously pointed out, GPU has virtually no assets other than the common stocks of Met Ed, PEXELEC and Jersey 
Central." (282) 

"* Section 182(a) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, 42 U.S.C. | 2232 (a), states that each license applicant 
"shall specifically state such information as the Commission . . . may determine to be necessary to decide such of the 
technical and financial qualifications of the applicant ... as the Commission may deem appropriate for the license." 
Under 10 C.F.R. 50.33(f) and Appendix C. an applicant must demonstrate that it has reasonable assurance of 
obtaining the funds to cover estimated operating costs and costs of permanently shutting the facility down. According 
to XRC staff, this regulation has been interpreted to cover a normal decommissioning operation, not the more substantial 
costs resulting from an accident. (283) 

107 For example, former Commission Chairman Joseph Hendrie said : 

I guess the financial side does have an interest here. You would want to have reasonable confidence that 
you weren't licensing a plant or a utility that was in such shakey condition that they would just go into bank- 
ruptcy and there would be some question about their survivability as an operating entity to take care of the 
site. Yes, I think we have to look. I am not quite sure how we treat or how well you could do any analyses, but 
I think we need to look at it. (285) 


obligations and debts and for deciding which will 
be satisfied. (287) Further, the NRC's General 
Counsel said that if such action were necessary, the 
agency has the authority to run the TMI facility, 
pursuant to Section 186 (c) of the Atomic Energy 
Act, 42 U.S.C. section 2236 (c) , 108 (288) 

During the November 9 hearing, the Subcom- 
mittee Chairman asked NRC's General Counsel^ 
Leonard Bickwit, about the possibility of an NRC 
takeover : 

Senator HART. If Metropolitan Edi- 
son were to go into receivership or become 
insolvent, and for one reason or another 
GPU were unable or unwilling to assume 
responsibility, what would be your rec- 
ommendation to the Commission in this 
regard ? 

BICKWIT. Yon want to look at the op- 
tions, but at this point I would advise 
them, if it happened tomorrow, I would 
advise them to take it over, and if the 
expertise of the Commission was not up 
to the problem, contract with those who 
could assist. (289) 

Following up on this latter point, the Subcom- 
mittee asked the NRC's Denton whether NRC staff 
was capable of taking over the plant. Denton 
replied : 

I think the answer is yes ... I do think 
the NRC operation could assume a man- 
agerial, technical direction of the plant, 
but this is only an assumption that many 
of the employees of the plant who are 
skilled in operating individual pieces of 
equipment could be transferred and some- 
how paid by the NRC. We don't have 
the operational capability to replace 
those individual employees that are ac- 
tually manning the equipment today. 

And to do that, would require a mas- 
sive rearrangement of our own priorities 
and assistance from other Government 
agencies. (290) 

At the hearings, the Subcommittee Chairman 

also asked if the Federal Government would have 
a responsibility to pay for the cleanup in the event 
of bankruptcy. Bickwit replied, "I don't see it." 
(291) Commisioner Hendrie agreed: 

. . . unless we get to some situation where 
it is an urgent public safety matter and 
there simply isn't any other institution 
around that is able to take action. But 
short of that, which I don't see as being 
the case, it is not a Federal responsibility, 
in a financial sense, I wouldn't think. 

In late February 1980, an NRC Special Task 
Force on Cleanup noted that bankruptcy of a 
licensee was a risk for which no contingency plans 
had been prepared : 

There is some risk that the licensee may 
go bankrupt and may not be able to com- 
plete the cleanup. There are no known 
plans to cover this contingency. (293) 

It recommended that the 

Commission, in conjunction with other 
government agencies, prepare contin- 

fency plan for cleanup in case of financial 
lilure of licensee. (294) 

As a result of this recent recommendation, the 
agency has begun to prepare contingency plans for 
NRC management of the cleanup. (295) 


The financial aspects of cleanup involve the 
weighing of many interests. The GPU companies' 
financial condition has been largely tied to the 
decisions of utility regulators, who have had to 
balance the needs of the utilities and their custom- 
ers. The NRC has had to fulfill its mandate to 
protect the public's health and safety, yet its deci- 
sions also may affect the financial condition of the 
utilities. More than 1 year after the accident, 
the financial condition of the GPU companies re- 
mained uncertain, as did the consequences of bank- 
ruptcy on cleanup. 


The accident at Three Mile Island has remained 
a major source of anxiety for local residents. The 
President's Commission on Three Mile Island 
concluded that "the most serious health effect of 
the accident was severe mental stress." (296) 

Strong distrust and lack of confidence in the NRC 
and the licensee have persisted during recovery. 

On November 8, 1979, the Subcommittee heard 
testimony from two elected officials from commu- 
nities near TMI. One was Bruce Smith, Chairman 

108 Section 186(c) , 42 U.S.C. section 2236(c) , states, 

In cases found by the Commission to be of extreme importance to the health and safety of the public, 
the Commission may recapture any special nuclear material held by the licensee or may enter upon and operate 
the facility prior to any of the procedures provided under the Administrative Procedure Act. 


of the Board of Supervisors, Newberry Township, 
a township located just a few miles from TMI. 
(297) He described himself as "an average citi- 
zen" and a "conservative,'' who before the accident 
would "invariably compare the cooling towers to 
the pyramids." (298) He stated : 

. . . [N]ow I am so angry about Three 
Mile Island that I have become one of the 
leaders in the movement to close TMI 
forever, as a nuclear plant. (299) 
Smith cited a specific example of the commu- 
nity's ongoing distrust. Referring to Met Ed's No- 
vember 1979 request to vent the krypton gas in the 
containment, 109 he testified : 

I personally attended the news conference 
when Met 'Ed announced their desire to 
release krypton into the atmosphere. Met 
Ed officials seemed mystified when local 
citizens protested; after all the krypton 
only had half-life of [a little] . . . more 
than 10 years. It was little consolation to 
the people of central Pennsylvania to 
know that Met Ed was going to select the 
days when wind direction and velocity 
were best for release of the krypton. 11 ' 
Smith said further : 

. . . [T]he bottom line of what most peo- 
ple say is due to their unique experience, 
they don't quite believe everything that 
they're told ... So. the people don't 
know what to believe, and they're told 
that everything is being done safely and 
within the guidelines and acceptable 
limits. Even the word acceptable limits 
becomes laughable when you've been 
through what people in central Pennsyl- 
vania feel they've been through. (302) 

Smith recommended one way to improve the 
community's attitude toward cleanup : 

A long-range step-by-step plan could bet- 
ter prepare the community as well as the 
community leaders with the problems 
and dangers to be confronted with the 
cleanup process. (303) 

Referring to some of the many post-accident 
studies and surveys of local residents, Smith also 
noted that the constant reminders of TMI might 
be fueling public concern : 

[T]he inherent problem is similar to that 
of a hypochondriac who learns of too 
many potential diseases. It becomes a 
psychological problem which depresses 
the interviewer and the interviewee . . . 
The psychological impact of the accident 
at Three Mile Island is immeasurable, 
but it is there, in many homes. 111 (305) 

A second Subcommittee witness was Albert B. 
Wohlsen, then the Mayor of the city of Lancaster. 
(306) As is discussed later, Lancaster city officials 
had initiated a civil action in May 1979 to enjoin 
the NRC from permitting the discharge of any 
Unit 2 wastewater into the Susquehanna River, a 
major source of Lancaster's drinking water. 112 The 
reason for the suit, according to Wohlsen, was 
that cleanup decisions "were being made with no 
opportunity for Lancaster's participation." (307) 

Wohlsen gave his view of community distrust : 
"[t]he inaccuracies, inconsistencies and misinfor- 
mation supplied by Met Ed and the Nuclear Reg- 
ulatory Commission following the accident" had 
produced in citizens from the Lancaster area a 
"crisis of confidence concerning the ability of Met 
Ed and the NRC to protect the public." (308) He 

Met Ed and the NRC have made repeated 
assurances that their post-accident pro- 
cedures are more reliable, accurate and 
responsive to the public's need for reli- 
able information. That conclusion, how- 
ever, is open to serious challenge. (309) 


. . . Restoring public confidence in nuclear 
power and our governmental ability to 
safety control it both in Lancaster 
County and elsewhere, will require more 
effort in the future than has been demon- 
strated by Met Ed and the NRC in the 
past. (310) 

108 See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," pp. 205-207, and "Technical Aspects of Recovery," pp. 182-184, for 
details on Met Ed's request to vent the krypton, the XRC's response and the events that followed. 

110 Met Ed. in requesting XRC's permission to proceed with venting, addressed the problem of public concern : 
We are cognizant of the concern on the part of some members of the surrounding communities about the venting 
of the Kr-85. We are convinced, however, that this is the most prudent and safest approach . . . The Com- 
pany will do whatever it can to provide sufficient information to the public to assure them they will be aware 
of the timing of releases and the results of the monitoring on both on-site and off-site radiation levels. (300) 

111 According to a newspaper report, psychologists consulting for the National Science Foundation recently 

", . . found a direct relationship between the degree of risk perceived by laymen and the frequency with which 
a potential risk is mentioned in news reports. During the Three Mile Island incident, for instance, some 700 
newsmen, editors, photographers, producers and support staff were on the scene concentrated news coverage 
matched in recent years only by Saigon during the height of the Vietnam war." (304) 

112 See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," pp. 201-204, 207. 


Wohlsen, too, suggested a solution : 

The public must be fully involved and in- 
formed so that it can be confident that re- 
actor accidents are openly and properly 
analyzed and resolved. (311) 
A third Subcommittee witness was Judith 
Johnsrud, Co-Director of the Environmental Coali- 
tion Against Nuclear Power, a non-profit organi- 
zation representing "individuals and citizen 
groups throughout the Pennsylvania and adjoin- 
ing states." (The Coalition had intervened in the 
licensing proceedings involving TMI-2). (312) 
Stating that area residents were "trying to restore 
some semblance of sanity to their own lives," (313) 
she commented on the "distressing lack of ... 
reliable information [available] from official 
sources." (314) She also said, 

We find that, in all except the most out- 
spoken proponents of nuclear power and 
the most apathetic, there is a sense of un- 
ease. Although many people appear to be 
unwilling to discuss the persistent haz- 
ards of the plant, when pressed they ad- 
mit they are sick of the matter and just 
wish the problem would go away. There 
is little sympathy expressed for Met Ed ; 
we find few who believe in either the 
veracity or competence of the utility to 
conduct the recovery or further operation 
of the reactors at TMI. (315) 

During the Subcommittee's hearings, GPU's 
President Dieckamp acknowledged the continuing 
concerns of the local public : 

But, the cleanup is more than a technical 
matter. It involves activities which have 
been perceived by the local public as im- 
posing an unknown hazard. The accident 
has made some segments of the public so 
conscious and fearful of radiation that 
there's a great tendency to accept nothing. 

He added that "we certainly recognize there's a 
great need to inform the public and in the process, 
to hopefully regain some public confidence." (317) 
According to Harold Denton, the NRC also was 
"acutely aware of the need to keep the local citizens 
and governments informed." (318) He suggested, 

I think we can bring this to a much better 
focus and lay out for the public inspection 
general plans so that everyone can under- 
stand what are the steps and still provide 

flexibility for adjusting and modifying 
the plan as new knowledge is gained. 

At the time of the November Subcommittee 
hearings, the NRC, Met Ed and the State of Penn- 
sylvania were trying to restore community trust 
by holding biweekly meetings open to the public. 
(320) In addition, once the NRC decided to pre- 
pare an environmental impact statement, 113 public 
"scoping" meetings were held to discuss this doc- 
ument. (321) By early February of this year, the 
NRC also had set up a permanent office in Middle- 
tow T n, Pennsylvania, both to serve as an offsite base 
for NRC officials and to make the agency more 
accessible to the public. (322) 

Nonetheless, fueled in part by the accidental re- 
leases on February 11, 12, and 13, 1980, 114 commu- 
nity concern and distrust persisted. On Febru- 
ary 12, 1980, the NRC held a public meeting near 
TMI to solicit comments on the programmatic en- 
vironmental impact statement being prepared on 
the decontamination and disposal of radioactive 
wastes at TMI. A woman who described herself as 
a 36-year resident of Middletown said at that 
meeting : 

... I work in mental health . . . Now, 
I am seeing among people I know, just lo- 
cal people, my neighbors, the same kinds 
of symptoms I am seeing in people I am 
treating, only we accept it as normal. We 
have come to a place, living here, where 
we have accepted high anxiety, stress, 
fear, and inability to sleep, restlessness, 
the desire to escape, a feeling of being 
trapped, we have begun to accept that as 
normal. And that is not normal. 
* * * 

. . . people are really, are being impacted 
on a daily basis by things that they are 
beginning to believe they cannot in any 
way change. That induces hopelessness. 
Hopelessness induces depression. And if 
we don't get cancer from radiation, then 
the effect of depression will probably take 
its toll. (324) 

Some speakers stated that they could no longer 
rely on the licensee and the NRC, and two citizens 
suggested that a local citizens' advisory group 
be funded to conduct an independent review of the 
activities at TMI. (325) One commented : 

. . . [T]here should be a citizens advisory 
panel. I think it should be, that you 

111 See "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," p. 201, 204-205, for further discussion of the impact statement. 
114 In a report dated February 28, 1980, an NRC Special Task Force on Three Mile Island Cleanup reported the view 
of on-site NRC support staff : 

. . . that there had been considerable improvement in the public's confidence in the licensee during the past 
10 months, but that this confidence was severely eroded by the events that took place at TMI-2 and were so 
widely publicized during the week of February 11, 1980. The Mayor of Middletown expressed a similar view. 


should make a real, deliberate attempt to 
contact some of the leaders of these local 
organizations, who have been active, who 
have tried to educate themselves, and who 
have a tie with the community, know what 
the people's concerns are. and deal with 
them on a day-to-day basis. 

I also think that that advisory panel 
should have funding provided so that 
thev can solicit input from qualified, in- 
dependent experts to help evaluate these 
assessments that you people are doing, so 
that we feel that we are getting the input 
and we are able to ask the questions and 
get the type of information that we feel 
good about. (326) 

In its February 28, 1980, report to the Commis- 
sioners, the XRCs Special Task Force on Three 
Mile Island Cleanup noted that "[tjhere exist 
strong feelings of fear and anxiety among citizens 
about the activities at TMI-2." (327) According 
to the Task Force : 

The public concerns for health and safety 
appear to stem from a lack of public con- 
fidence in either the licensee or XRC. 
coupled with a conviction on the part of a 
substantial fraction of the population 
that releases of any quantity are danger- 
ous and or that the magnitude of releases 
is consistently understated. These con- 
cerns have led to a high degree of stress 
for a segment of the population, which 
needs to be alleviated. (328) 
The Task Force recommended consideration of 
a "citizen's advisory committee" in connnection 
with the preparation of the environmental impact 
statement. (329) Further, 

Staff . . . [should] take positive actions to 
ensure local citizens are (a) informed of 
the need for timely cleanup of TMI and 
the steps to be taken to clean up the plant, 
including evaluation of alternatives; (b) 
alerted when particular planned releases 
are to be made, with advice on precautions 
the public should take, if any: and (c) 
provided data promptly about radiation 
levels in their communities during the 
course of any release. (330) 

Several weeks after the Task Force issued its 
report. XRC staff recommended to the Commis- 
sion that it approve the "controlled purging" of 
krypton gas in the containment. 115 In doing so. 
the staff stated that it was 

fully aware of the public sentiment 
against the planned or accidental release 

of any further radioactive materials , 
regardless of the dose consequences . . . 
[T]he authorization of controlled purg- 
ing will entail some public concern and 
stress despite the absence of significant 
radiological health effects. On the other 
hand, if purging is not authorized . . . , 
based on past experience there will con- 
tinue to be planned and unplanned small 
gaseous releases incident to the activities 
involved in maintaining the facility in 
a safe status as well as continuous low 
level releases from offgassing . . . Thus, 
even if purging is authorized there will 
still be a source of continued public con- 
cern and stress , but the major source 

of public concern will have been allevi- 
ated. (331) 

On March 19, 1980, the NRC held a public meet- 
ing in Middletown to discuss the staffs assessment 
that venting would have no significant adverse 
impact on public health and safety and no 
significant environmental impact. The meeting 
was punctuated by frequent interruptions by the 
audience. (332) One speaker from the audience 
explained : 

. . . people aren't very polite to you to- 
night and I would be willing to bet that 
on the whole with maybe a few excep- 
tions, this is a pretty law abiding, polite 
crowd usually. 

But the thing is that when you push 
people to the wall and when you threaten 
people's lives, when you threaten their 
children's lives they are not polite. They 
are afraid and they are angry. 

These people are pretty angry tonight. 
... If that anger is so bad tonight when 
we are just talking about venting kryp- 
ton, what is going to happen if you make 
that decision to do it ? (333) 

Another resident, who lived 3 miles from the 
plant, commented : 

Met Ed's alleged concern for my safety 
insults me. They rightly assume that I 
don't want any equipment to malfunction 
from lack of maintenance, or even relive 
another reactor accident. 

However, they assume that I would 
therefore willingly accept the low level 
and I don't know how low level radioac- 
tive releases, a far lesser risk they say 
than relying on other alternatives. 

I -have been blitzed by their PR cam- 
paigns and their charts and their fancy 
numbers and their smiling assurances 

m See "Technical Aspects of Recovery." pp. 182. 183. and "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," PP- 2(6-207, for 
further discussion of the venting issue. 


that the levels of radiation to be vented 
are within Federal safety limits. But who 
knows if the Federal safety limits are 

safe (334) 

Two days later, on March 21, the NRG held 
another meeting, this time in the Commissioners' 
conference room in Washington, B.C. Among 
those present were three Commissioners and seven 
members of a "citizens' group on TMI cleanup." 
The citizens, who described the earlier public 
meetings on venting as "rowdy," (335) repeated 
to the three Commissioners an attitude expressed 
previously : 

. . . distrust, absolute distrust for the 
variety of authorities who have been hop- 
ing to be in control in the matter of 
TMI ; that includes Met Ed, that includes 
the NRC. (336) 

One citizen added, "we are beginning not even to 
trust the [State of Pennsylvania's] Department of 
Environmental Resources." ue (337) 

The Commissioners were told of efforts to de- 
velop a local citizens group. According to one of 
the community residents : 

We are talking about ... a citizens group 
that can act as a buffer between the Com- 
mission and the citizens so that this does 
not deteriorate into something far worse 
and . . . get out of control. (338) 

She added : 

... If you decide to have a citizens com- 
mittee, we don't want the appointments 
made by any politicians or any bureau- 
cratic offices. We can submit a list of 
names that I feel perhaps will meet with 
the approval of most of the people in the 
TMI area who feel that their best inter- 
ests are being served. We don't want any 
appointments coming from the Governor, 
from Washington, or from anyplace else. 
The credibility is gone. We now feel that 
we have to get in control of our own lives 
and I would appreciate anything that you 
could do in that area. (339) 

It should be stressed that not all area residents 
have opposed the cleanup proposals, including the 
venting of krypton. Newspaper articles in late 
March quoted local citizens as criticizing vocal op- 
ponents of venting as "hysterical" or "disgusting" 
(340) and insisting that it was "time for the silent 
majority to come forward." (341) One article 
noted that Middletown's population appeared to 
have risen, probably because of the influx of work- 

ers helping the cleanup, thus "belying any notion 
that this is an atomic gnost town." (342) 

On May 12, 1980, local citizens expressed this 
different perspective to the NRC Commissioners. 
At that time the Executive Secretary of the Penn- 
sylvania Holstein Association stated : 

It seems to us that this venting is an im- 
portant, safe, and reasonable step in a 
]ob that must be done : the prompt clean- 
up of TMI. And actually the sooner it is 
done, the better not only for the members 
of our association, but for the entire 
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

We are concerned that further delay 
could result in possible deterioration of 
the containment building and cause un- 
controlled venting. 

Any health risks to our citizens and 
possible economic loss to our business 
community must be avoided. The agricul- 
ture community in Pennsylvania could 
not withstand the economic loss that 
would follow uncontrolled venting. (343) 

This attitude was repeated by another area resi- 
dent, who added : 

When is TMI going to be cleaned up? 
This latter question is of particular im- 
portance. With a flood or other national 
disaster cleanup begins as soon as the 
damage subsides. The man on the street 
can do something and within a few 
months things are pretty much back to 
normal. The disaster may be nearly for- 

But over 1 year later Unit 2 is still not 
cleaned up and we are constantly re- 
minded of the accident and the fact that 
it is still potentially dangerous. The long- 
er it takes to get everything cleaned up 
the longer the citizenry will be subject to 
rumors, lies, and varying degrees of un- 

I feel as soon as TMI is cleaned up and 
either shut down or reopened concerns 
will begin to dissipate. However, these 
concerns may take a long time to disap- 
pear because people will continue to won- 
der where or when or if it will happen 
again. Fear of the unknown is a very real 
fear. That is not to say that the people of 
Middletown are in a constant state of 
anxiety or panic but as long as the fore- 
cast for TMI remains unknown there will 
certainly be fears and concerns. 


116 As mentioned in "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," p. 206, fn. 125, the Pennsylvania Governor's Com- 
mission on Three Mile Island had indicated in a February 1980 report that it would not oppose prompt venting provided 
that dose levels were "acceptable." The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources was a member of the 


For this reason we ask you to arrive at a 
decision concerning the venting of kryp- 
ton as soon as possible. (344) 

In late March, the Governor of Pennsylvania 
responded to those who had expressed concern and 
distrust over venting. He requested that the Union 
of Concerned Scientists (ITS), an organization 
opposed to nuclear power, do its own analysis 
of the XR( ' staff's proposal. He explained that the 
proposal had stirred -considerable anxiety" in the 
area and that he wanted to ensure that the plan 
was analyzed "by the bi-oadest range of experts, 
and 'in the lioiw of assuring our people that 
whatever course ultimately taken is. indeed, the 
safest available." (-^:>) 

On May 14. 1980. the ITS released its results. 
A- discussed in more detail elsewhere. 117 the ITS 
concluded that the XRC staff's proposal would not 
have any significant adverse health effects but 
recommended against the particular venting 
method proposed localise of the anxiety it would 

cause area residents. (346) Two days later, on 
May 16. Governor Thornburgh told the NBC he 
would support a decision to proceed promptly with 
the XRC staff's venting proposal because of what 
he termed a "broad based consensus" among vari- 
ous experts, including ITS. that the proposal 
would not have direct radiation-induced adverse 
health effects. (347) 


For a variety of reasons, concern and anxiety 
still exist among some members of the community 
surrounding TMI. State and Federal officials and 
the licensee all have acknowledged and sought to 
relieve these concerns. They have not been success- 
ful. The fundamental, continuing problem is a lack 
of trust and confidence in those who bear responsi- 
bility for ensuring that cleanup is accomplished 
expeditions!}-, but with due regard for the health 
and safety of the public. 



The judicial and regulator}- proceedings that 
have followed from the accident are complex and 
involve many parties, among them the licensee. 
Met Ed. the XRC and numerous Federal and State 
agencies, public officials, and private groups and 
citizens. The proceedings are necessarily delibera- 
tive and therefore affect the pace and nature of 
cleanup: they alsx> will affect the ultimate cost of 
the accident. 


A difficult problem the licensee and the XRC 
have been facing is how to decontaminate and dis- 
pose of the radioactive solids, liquids and gases in 
Unit 2. Technical solutions have been complicated 
by legal and regulatory factors. 


EPICOR-II is a water purification designed 
specially for TMI." S On May 20. 1979. as its in- 
stallation neared. officials of the city of Lancaster 
went to Federal district court to enjoin the XRC 

. . . approving or allowing (a) the con- 
struction or operation of any decontami- 
nation equipment or piping, and (b) the 

decontamination of or discharging into 
the Susquehanna River of any radio- 
active waste water from . . . reactor Xo. 
2. ... (348) 

The city charged that the XRC had "proceeded 
secretly to select and approve decontamination 
plans"" and insisted that the plans be "fully ex- 
amined and subjected to public review and com- 
ment." (349) 

Among its legal claims, the city alleged that 
before the XRC could proceed, it was required to 
prepare an environmental impact statement cover- 
ing all plans to decontaminate Unit 2 and dispose 
of the radioactive water. (350) An impact state- 
ment is required under the National Environmen- 
tal Policy Act of 1969 (XEPA). 42 U.S.C. sec- 
tions 4321 et sfq.. for "major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human 
environment." It sets forth alternative approaches 
to the proposed project and how each might affect 
the environment. (351) 

On Mav 2.">. as a result of the city's lawsuit, the 
Commissioners directed XRC staff to prepare an 
environmental assessment for EPICOR-II. (352) 
L#ss elaborate than an environmental impact state- 
ment, an assessment is supposed to 

|"b]riefly provide sufficient evidence 

and analysis for determining whether to 

:i: See "Technical Aspects of Recovery." pp. 171. 183. and "Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Recovery," pp. 206-207. 
m See "Technical Aspects of Recovery." pp. 179-182. 



prepare an environmental impact state- 
ment . . . (353) 

Ordinarily, the more detailed impact statement 
would not be required if the assessment concludes 
that the proposed action would have no significant 
environmental impact. (354) 

The Commission's directive stated that pending 
completion of and public comment on the staff s 
assessment of EPICOR-II, the licensee would not 
be permitted to operate EPICOR-II except for 
testing. (355) The statement added, however, that 
the NEC's Director of NRR still could authorize 
measures he deemed "necessary" to deal with an 
"emergency" and that if he believed that public 
health and safety required the use of EPICOR-II 
before completion of the assessment, he would re- 
port that to the Commissioners, who might permit 
its use. (356) 

This directive postponed operation of EPICOR- 
II. The City of Lancaster and the NRC then 
settled some of their differences. As spelled out in 
a court order, filed May 29, 1979, the City agreed to 
hold its pending motion for a preliminary injunc- 
tion in abeyance. (357) The NRC was to prepare 
an environmental assessment in accordance with 
both the Commissioners' statement of May 25, 1979 
and "such further terms and conditions as may be 
provided by this court or further stipulation by 
the parties." (358) Thus the order made the Com- 
mission's May 25 directive a judicial directive as 

About the same time, four Pennsylvania resi- 
dents and the Susquehanna Valley Alliance, an 
unincorporated association of citizens whose 
stated purpose is to preserve and protect the en- 
vironmental quality of the Susquehanna River and 
its environs, commenced a second injunctive action 
in the same court. (359) They named the NRC, 
GPU, Met Ed and a number of other parties as 
defendants. (360) 

The plaintiffs also sought an injunction against 
the treatment of radioactive wastewater and its 
discharge into the Susquehanna River. Like the 
City of Lancaster, the plaintiffs held that the 
NEPA required the NRC to prepare an environ- 
mental impact statement or to make a specific 
declaration that one was unnecessary. (361) 
Among their other claims, the plaintiffs charged 
there had been violations of the Federal Water 
Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C. 1311 (f ) , which 
prohibits the discharge of "high-level radio- 
active waste into the navigable waters," (362) and 
that the plaintiffs' constitutional rights had been 
violated. (363) 

In this case, the parties did not consent to a judi- 
cial order based on the Commission's May 25, 1979 
directive. The court did not grant the plaintiffs 
injunctive relief. 

On August 14, 1979, the NRC made public the 
staff's environmental assessment of EPICOR- 


II. (364) It covered only the environmental effect 
of using EPICOR-II for processing radioactive 
wastewater, concluding that the use of EPICOR- 
II for this limited purpose would not "significantly 
affect the quality of the environment." (365) 

The staff deferred the more sensitive issue 
how to dispose of the wastewater processed by 
EPICOR-II, asserting that use of the system 
for processing would not foreclose any options re- 
garding ultimate disposal. (366) 

The NRC sought formal public comment on the 
assessment. (367) Among those who responded 
were the city of Lancaster and the Susquehanna 
Valley Alliance. Each contended that a detailed 
environmental impact statement was necessary, 
the assessment of EPICOR-II was not enough. 

(368) Among its arguments, the Susquehanna 
Valley Alliance said that the NRC was dividing 
cleanup into eight segments, one of which was the 
processing of wastewater through EPICOR-II, 

(369) and that 

[T]his segmentation is intended to create 
the illusion that no single segment has any 
potential significant environmental im- 
pact, thereby negating the requirement of 
preparing a full environmental impact 
statement (EIS) covering the entire 
[cleanup] program before the program 
commences. (370) 

The City of Lancaster also raised the issue of 
improper segmentation. (371) In addition, the 
City complained that the NRC assessment was an 

. . . after-the-fact rationalization of the 
particular decontamination alternative 
which was chosen and constructed 
prior to the preparation of the assess- 
ment. (372) 

The City urged that an environmental impact 
statement be prepared by "an agency or firm not 
associated with the nuclear industry or the NRC 
staff." (373) 

Not all the comments were negative. The Gov- 
ernor of Pennsylvania forwarded an evaluation 
performed by the State's Department of Envi- 
ronmental Resources. It concluded that with some 
specific exceptions, "the environmental assess- 
ment is adequate and . . . EPICOR-II should 
be used as soon as reasonably possible." (374) 

Given the public's comments, the NRC staff 
did alter some parts of the assessment; but it 
did not change its conclusion that the operation of 
EPICOR-II "will not significantly affect the 
quality of the human environment." (375) 

After getting the revised assessment, the Com- 
mission received additional written comments, this 
time from the Council on Environmental Qual- 
ity (CEQ). (376) A statutorily created office 
within the Executive Office of the President, the 

CEQ is responsible for reviewing and apprais- 
ing Federal environmental policies. It also pre- 
pared the Federal regulations that spell out the 
procedures for implementing XEPA. (377) 

The CEQ observed that the XRC staff had pre- 
pared one assessment for the processing of waste- 
water, was going to prepare another on its dis- 
posal, planned yet another on the release of radio- 
active <rases from the containment and still had 
other waste management issues to confront. The 
CEQ expressed its concern "that the XRC staff's 
review at TMI. as it is now planned, will result in 
an inappropriate segmentation of the issues," 
It advised : 

... it appears . . . several of the alterna- 
tive operations being considered for TMI 
Unit 2 will have significant impacts on 
the environment. In these circumstances, 
an environmental impact statement . . . 
should be prepared. . . . (379) 

Following this, the XRC and the CEQ held 
meetings and then exchanged letters. One XRC 
letter, dated October 15, 1979. warned the Council 
that because of the continuing accumulation of 
wa^tewater in the auxiliary building, "there is a 
pressing need for action to deal with the inter- 
mediate-level waste water." (380) The XRC noted 
the two alternatives to EPICOR-II for decon- 
tamination, but stated that each 

... in effect would enlarge rather than 
reduce the spread of radioactive contami- 
nation and would involve potentially sig- 
nificant safety questions and environ- 
mental impacts. (381) 

The letter also noted that the Commission had 
concluded that "prompt decontamination of the 
intermediate-level water by EPICOR-II is the 
best response to the situation." (382) 

The CEO responded to the XRC with a letter, 
dated October 16. 1979. It clarified its position 
concerning EPICOR-II : 

Based on the assurances made in your 
letter, the Council agrees that the prompt 
decontamination of the intermediate- 
level wastewater through the EPICOR- 
II system is an operation necessary to 
control the immediate impacts of an emer- 
gency situation (40 C.F.R. 1406.11). 

Xothing in this letter should, of course, 
be taken as passing on the appropriateness 
of other Commission actions thus far 
under XEPA." 9 (383) 

In its letter, the NRC had never specifically 
called the situation an "emergency." Yet, in testi- 
mony before the Subcommittee, CEQ's General 
Counsel said that the Council had been "con- 
vinced" an emergency existed, (384) warranting 
the immediate action. 

Xonetheless, the CEQ still "pressed" for prepa- 
ration of a comprehensive environmental impact 
statement covering all cleanup activities. (385) 

The Commission issued a formal Memorandum 
and Order, dated October 16, 1979, directing 
prompt processing of intermediate-level waste- 
water from TMI-2 using EPICOR-II. (386) It 
also directed that the licensee maintain "suitable 
tankage*' at Unit 1 that "could be used to store 
wastewater from TMI-2 at an appropriate state 
of readiness, should additional storage capacity 
become necessary." 120 (388) In the Order, the 
Commission maintained that, despite arguments to 
the contrary, consideration of the impact of 
EPICOR-II separate and apart from the overall 
impact of the complete decontamination program 
was not an "illegal segmentation." (389) 

On October 12, 1979. the Federal district court 
had dismissed the lawsuit of the Susquehanna Val- 
ley Alliance on the ground that the plaintiffs' 
claims first had to be presented to the NRC for 
administrative review and determination before 
the allegations could be considered "ripe" for anv 
form of judicial review. (390) When the NRC f s 
October 16 directive was issued, the Alliance im- 
mediately appealed the dismissal to the U.S. 
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, asking 
that it review the district court's dismissal and. 
pending this review, issue a judicial order pro- 
hibiting operation of EPICOR-H. (391) Accord- 
ing to an XRC attorney, the XRC opposed this 
request for injunctive relief by arguing, in part, 
that no water would be discharged into the river 
and. as a result, the plaintiffs would not be harmed 
by the use of EPICOR-IL (392) 

The appellate court refused to halt the opera- 
tion of EPICOR-II, although it did retain juris- 
diction over the plaintiffs' appeal from the district 
court's decision to dismiss the entire lawsuit. (393) 

""The Council's narrowly drawn approval was based on the following Federal Regulation (40 C.F.R. section 
1406.11) : 

Where emergency circumstances make it necessary to take an action with significant environmental im- 
pact without observing the provisions of those regulations, the Federal agency . . . should consult with the 
Council . . . Agencies and the Council will limit such arrangements to actions necessary to control the im- 
mediate impacts of the emergency. 

""The Commission's Order did not explain why this particular requirement was included. The XRC's General 
Counsel. Leonard Bickwit. and Commissioner Victor Gilinsky advised Subcommittee staff that the purpose was to en- 
sure that additional tankage would be available for immediate use if EPICOR-II did not function properly and the 
existing tankage in Unit 2 became filled to capacity with radioactive wastewater. (387) 


EPICOE-II was finally used to process the 
wastewater, some 5 months after it was ready. 
At that time, the auxiliary building tanks were 
some three weeks from capacity. 121 


The NEC still had to decide what type of en- 
vironmental studies to prepare on decontamina- 
tion and waste disposal overall. On November 21, 
1979, the Commission resolved the matter by issu- 
ing a Statement of Policy and Notice of Intent to 
Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact 

It announced that the agency would prepare a 
programmatic environmental impact statement on 
the decontamination and disposal of radioactive 
wastes, observing that an "overall study . . . will 
assist the Commission in carrying out its regula- 
tory responsibilities ... to protect the public 
health and safety as decontamination progresses." 
(394) It noted that while the programmatic im- 
pact statement was being prepared, the agency 
was prepared to take prompt action, if needed: 

For example, should the Commission be- 
fore completing its programmatic state- 
ment decide that it is in the best interest 
of the public health and safety to decon- 
taminate the high-level wastewater now 
in the containment building, or to purge 
that building of its radioactive gases, the 
Commmission will consider ... [the 
Council on Environmental Quality's] 
advice as to the Commission's NEPA re- 
sponsibilities. . . . (395) 

The policy statement commented that "any action 
of this kind" would not be taken without an "en- 
vironmental review" and an "opportunity for 
public comment." The statement also said : 

. . . there may be emergency situations, 
not now foreseen, which . . . would require 
rapid action. To the extent practicable 
the Commission will consult with [the 
Council] in these situations as well. (396) 

The NEC contracted with Argonne National 
Laboratory to prepare the statement, at an esti- 
mated cost of $2.5 million. As of early March 1980, 
about 50 people were assigned to the project. In 
late May, the draft statement was expected in 
June, and the final statement was targeted for re- 
lease between September and October 1980. (397) 

As noted, in February an NEC Task Force in- 
dicated the staff was not "clear" how the Commis- 
sion intended to use the impact statement. As of 
late Mav, the Commission still had to determine 
how and by whom major cleanup decisions would 

121 See "Technical Aspects of Recovery," p. 181. 

be made after completion of the statement and the 
statement's expected role in decisionmaking. (398) 

The programmatic environmental impact state- 
ment has created a dilemma. 

On November 9, 1979, during Subcommittee 
hearings, the NEC's then-Chairman, Joseph 
Hendne, had predicted that the venting of kryp- 
ton, like the decontamination of auxiliary building 
wastewater, might become caught up in issues 
of what could or should be done before completion 
of an environmental impact statement. 

The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Senator 
Hart, had asked : 

Short of an emergency, what do ... you 
contemplate will happen to deal with con- 
tainment water and trapped waste ? What 
is an emergency and isn't? How much is 
going to be helped from an EIS [environ- 
mental impact statement] and how much 
is not going to be in terms of cleaning this 
operation in the next 6 months to a year? 

Hendrie replied : 

I think the place that we are going to have 
a pinch is in dealing with the atmosphere 
of the containment building as a necessary 
preliminary step to getting on to process- 
ing the water in the base of the contain- 
ment, or a step that has to go along with 
the processing of the water in the contain- 
ment. Now what I would like to do is to 
avoid the need for emergency action in 
the sense that we just stop the environ- 
mental review processes and say never 
mind, we have got to do something, and 
this is as cood a thing as we can see to do ; 
so we do it. We went, in effect, through 
that with the CEQ [Council on Environ- 
mental Quality] on EPICOE-II because 
things had just dragged on and there was 
argument about whether we- there are 
always people who want you to do five 
more analyses. (400) 

The issue arose again at a Commission meeting 
on March 5, 1980, when Hendrie expressed his 
views more strongly : 

It is inconceivable to me that the laws of 
the United States require us to sit on our 
. . . [duffs] and fiddle for iy 2 years 
waiting for that containment to leak 
or the primary system to finally funk out 
and fail to cool the core or the boron con- 
centration to go. Don't we get . . . [re- 
criticality] ? There has to be a way to get 
in there and see that system is going to run 


adequately for the balance of the time that 
is necessary to clean up all the water, and 
so on . 

You can't .sit around here and calculate 
environmental impact while we get ready 
to have a disaster in central Pennsylvania. 
I appeal to the staff, applicant, and God 
for Christ's sake to tell me how to get 
out of this idiocy. 

Are we. in fact, compelled inextricably 
under the laws of the United States to sit 
here and wait for trouble ? (401) 

Although preparation of an impact statement 
requires extensive time and effort, it may help the 
agency preparing it to focus on the alternatives, 
and its procedures allow the public an opportu- 
nity to comment as the document is being pre- 
pared. (4O2) An impact statement provides one 
means of deciding among competing interests 
based on careful assessment of all alternatives. 
Further, it is clear that the XRC can act in an 
"emergency." although it is less clear under what 
lesser circumstances it can do so, prior to comple- 
tion of the statement. As the Commission, in re- 
sponse to questions from the Subcommittee, stated : 

... an overall environmental study of 
the decontamination and disposal proc- 
esses will not only assist the Commission 
in discharging its regulatory responsi- 
bilities to protect the public health and 
safety but also assure that the public is 
informed and. indeed, involved in the 
Commission's decisionmaking process. 

The Commission also noted that 

... it is believed that such a statement 
can serve as a useful planning tooL (404) 

At another point in the Commission's March 5 
meeting. Commissioner Hendrie elaborated on his 


This is the 1st of March and we are talk- 
ing about the end of the year, that a 
final EIS can be out and people begin to 
complain about it and we will have to 
fight court actions. It is not today, you 
know, on the 5th of March. It is going to 
be damn near a year from now and we are 
still going to be sitting here . . . [star- 
ing] at that containment. [H]ow many 
neutron monitors do we still have on that 
system \ 
' XRC STAFF: One. 

HEXDRIF. : Anybody want to guarantee 
me that it will still be there a year from 
now \ Anybody want to guarantee me we 
will know for sure what the vessel 
boron concentration is based on the low 

flows and taking the customary boron 
sampling outside the building \ Anybody 
going to be able to guarantee me we won't 
have recriticality from low boron ... in 
the next year \ How about breakdown of 
the system inside ? (405) 

Commissioner Gilinsky also expressed some 

There ought to be, it seems to me, I think 
a statement that deals with alternatives, 
but it may be that we have gotten our- 
selves into a very . . . elaborate state- 
ment and certainly, the price tag seems 
to suggest that. (406) 

However, William Dircks, Acting Executive 
Director for Operations, made the point that 
". . . the impact statement, if it serves as a docu- 
ment to help you plan action and carry out ac- 
tions, ... is very important." (407) 

Stephen F. Eilperin, Office of General Counsel, 
explained to the Commission that the environmen- 
tal impact statement need not delay cleanup : 

The Commission's policy statement does 
not [have to] await . . . the completion of 
the programmatic statement to get into 
the unit. (408) 

In a meeting of the XRC on Xovember 29, 1979. 
X'RC staff discussed the time required for an envi- 
ronmental assessment or an environmental impact 
statement. Yollmer commented : 

The environmental assessment case would 
add five months, if it is presumed that 
one could allow venting of the contain- 
ment as a method of cleanup. (409) 

He went on to say 

... if nothing could be done for cleanup 
until the Environmental Impact State- 
ment process is complete, then a mini- 
mum of nine months would have to pass 
before anything could happen. (410) 

According to Vollmer, the environmental impact 
statement would 

. . . include everything that we can fore- 
see, including fuel removal, waste dis- 
posal everything we can see at this time. 


On Xovember 13, 1979. Met Ed made a formal 
presentation to the XRC on another major de- 
contamination issue: how to remove the krypton 
gas from the containment. The company asked 
permission to purge the containment of the gas 
over time, insisting that the "operation . . . can be 
done with no significant hazard or radiation ex- 


posure either to the general population or the 

site." (412) Met Ed argued that 

The time [required] to implement 
[other] alternatives to purge are such 
that we cannot guarantee full contain- 
ment integrity and would, in fact, expect 
general population doses to exceed those 
minimum levels resulting from purge. 
The NRC staff moved deliberately on Met Ed's 

request. Denton noted : 

I thought we had made great technologi- 
cal strides when we found that we were 
able to get the releases from this plant 
following the accident within those of es- 
tablished normal operating plants. Then 
we were being sued by several communi- 
ties not to permit releases that would 
otherwise 'be acceptable within if the 
plant had never had an accident. 

So, we decided as a matter of policy to 
look further to see if there was technol- 
ogy available which would further re- 
duce the impact of releases on the envi- 
ronment . . . [W]e wanted to delay the 
release of the krypton from the contain- 
ment or water from the plant until alter- 
natives could be explored and environ- 
mental assessments could be prepared to 
really be sure that we have looked hard 
at the technology that might further re- 
duce whatever the public impact would 
be of release of this gas. (414) 

As with EPICOR-II, the NRC staff did an en- 
vironmental assessment on the question of the 
venting. (415) It presented the assessment at a 
Commission meeting on March 12, 1980. together 
with its recommendation that controlled purging 
was the preferred ootion. (416) Based on its as- 
sessment, the staff concluded that purging 
"would have no significant adverse impact on pub- 
lic health and safety and no significant environ- 
mental impact." (4i7) It also found 

. . . that it is in the best interest of the 
public health and safety to purge the re- 
actor building promptly prior to comple- 
tion of the Programmatic Environmental 
Impact Statement. (418) 

The final recommendation read : 

We recommend that controlled purging 
of the TMI-2 reactor building be author- 
ized and that the licensee be directed to 
propose a method for purging over a 
shorter time period than the 60 days cur- 
rently proposed, but within the con- 
straints of Appendix I to 10 CFR 50 
and 10 CFR 20. 122 (419) 

The NRC staff suggested that the staff of the 
Council on Environmental Quality might take a 
different view of the NRC's authority to proceed 
promptly with venting : 

Until . . . [the environmental impact 
statement] is prepared, CEQ staff be- 
lieves that NRC approval of certain ac- 
tions, such as purging the radioactive gas 
from the containment, woulcl be a seg- 
mentation of the entire clean-up program 
in a manner inconsistent with . . . [the 
National Environmental Policy Act]. 123 

The NRC held a period of public comment on 
the staff's recommendation for venting. It met 
with substantial local opposition; some residents 
expressed their complete lack of trust in the NRC 
staff's recommendation. 124 

As a result, at the end of March, Pennsylvania 
Governor Thornburgh asked the Union of Con- 
cerned Scientists (UCS) to study the proposal to 
vent the krypton (422) and on April 11 sent a 
letter to the NRC asking that the agency's period 
for public comment be extended 

... to reflect whatever facts or opinions 
might emerge from this effort, and ac- 
cordingly defer any final decision on the 
cleanup proposal. 125 (424) 

The NRC extended the comment period as re- 
quested. (425) 

On May 14, the Union of Concerned Scientists 
released its results. The group concluded that the 
venting proposal would not have any significant 
adverse health effects but recommended against 
the proposed venting method because of the stress 
it would cause area residents. (426) It recom- 
mended instead venting with the aid of a buoyant 
plume or an extended vent stack using a plastic 
tube supported by a balloon. (427) 

la Appendix I to 10 C.F.R. Part 50 sets the guides and conditions by which the criterion "As low as is reasonably 
achievable" is to be met in terms of radiation dose standards. 10 C.F.R. Part 20 defines the standards for protection 
against radiation. 

123 The NRC staff also noted, however, that the Council staff recognized that NEPA permitted the NRC to approve 
certain actions that could result in "limited radioactive effluents" before completion of the impact statement. These ac- 
tions included data-gathering activities and "actions necessary to maintain TMI in a safe and stable condition." (420) 

124 See "Social Issues in Recovery," pp. 199-200. 

"* In February 1980, the Pennsylvania Governor's Commission on Three Mile Island had urged the NRC to "make a 
prompt decision concerning the proposed venting," adding that the Commission "would not oppose an NRC decision to 
vent the krypton gas, provided that [projected] dose levels . . . are acceptable." [emphasis omitted] (423) 


Two davs later, on May 16, Governor Thorn- 
burgh sent a letter to Chairman Ahearne. citing 
assessments from eight different sources, includ- 
ing UCS. The Governor said : 

There is, I have found, a broad-based 
consensus among these sources that the 
venting proposal now before you would 
have . . . "no direct radiation-induced 
health effects on the residents of this 


* * * 

Should you proceed with the venting pro- 
posal advanced by your staff, be assured 
that I am prepared to support that deci- 
sion. (428) 

In late May. the XRC staff again recommended 
venting, finding that it was in the best interest of 
public health and safety, would not have a signifi- 
cant environmental impact and would not limit the 
choice of reasonable alternatives for future cleanup 
steps. (429) The CEQ concluded that as a matter 
of procedure, based on those findings, the XRC 
staff's proposal would not violate 40 C.F.R. 
j 1506.1. which sets forth limitations on actions 
during the XEPA process. (430) In early June, 
the Xuclear Regulatory Commission formally 
authorized venting. (431) 


On March 17. 1980, the Third Circuit Court of 
Appeals reversed the District Court's dismissal of 
the Susquehanna Valley Alliance lawsuit. It con- 
cluded that the lower court did have jurisdiction 
to hear the plaintiffs' claims under the Xational 
Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Water 
Pollution Control Act, as well as plaintiffs' con- 
stitutional claims. (432) So. in early June the 
possibility of injunctive relief with respect to the 
challenged decontamination activities was still 
open. The appellate court's decision also set a legal 
precedent for other parties who might want to 
challenge cleanup proposals and activities in Fed- 
eral court, including proposals for venting. 

The City of Lancaster lawsuit was settled in 
February. The XRC agreed not to allow the dis- 
charge of water into the Susquehanna River be- 
fore the end of 1981 without first complying with 
the XRC's Xovember 21, 1979 policy statement. 
The settlement spelled out the plaintiffs' right to 
seek judicial review of any XRC decision to permit 
discharges, including those authorized in the event 
the XRC determined that an "emergencv" existed. 

Work was continuing on the comprehensive 
impact statement, a major undertaking that the 
Commission had only decided to proceed with in 
late Xovember 1979.' As of early June 1980, it 
remained possible that most major decisions on 

decontamination and waste disposal would be de- 
ferred until the statement was complete. The final 
statement was not expected to be completed and 
ready to release until some time in September or 
October 1980. (434) 

The absence of decisions on firm plans for 
cleanup has caused increasing concern. In late 
January 1980, the Secretary of Pennsylvania's 
Department of Environmental Resources, as 
quoted in a newspaper article, announced that 
TMI was "on its way to becoming one of the most 
dangerous radioactive waste storage sites in the 
world." (435) 

Referring to the releases on February 11, 12 and 
13, the Director of Pennsylvania's Department of 
Environmental Resources, Bureau of Radiation 
Protection, was quoted as saying: 

We're going to see more and more of 
this happening if we don't get in there 
and clean that mess up ... We still have 
an emergency situation at Three Mile 
Island, and the XRC is treating it as if it 
were a normal situation. It can't go on 
like this for long before something gives. 


In normal circumstances, maintenance and op- 
eration of Unit 2 were governed by the facility's 
Operating License and by the more elaborate con- 
ditions set forth in the Technical Specifications 
for Unit 2, a multi-volume document that detailed 
the requirements of the license. Following the 
accident, normal circumstances no longer existed. 
Thus the XRC and the licensee recognized the need 
to develop revised operating and contingency pro- 
cedures to assure long-term cooling of the core and 
plant stability. (437) 

On July 20, 1979, the Director of XRR issued a 
written order formally suspending the existing 
license. The order directed that, pending further 
amendment of the license, the licensee "maintain 
the facility in a shutdown condition in accordance 
with the approved operating and contingency pro- 
cedures." It stated that XRC staff was preparing 
"a detailed evaluation" of the license modifications 
needed to "assure the continued maintenance of the 
current . . . cooling condition," modifications which 
would be set forth in new or revised Technical 
Specifications. The JTRC anticipated having the 
specifications available in a month. (438) 

On January 11. 1980. after several deadline post- 
ponements, the XRR sent the Commissioners an 
order and revised Technical Specifications, to- 
gether with an environmental assessment, which 
concluded that the environmental impact of the 
proposals would be "insignificant." (439) The 


Comissioners gave their approval to NRR's sub- 
missions and on February 11, 1980, the NRR 
finally issued its order and revised Technical 
Specifications. (440) 

The order provided for the definition of operat- 
ing parameters for long-term cooling and for im- 
position of functional, operability, redundancy 
and surveillance requirements concerning struc- 
tures, systems, equipment and components needed 
to maintain shutdown. (441) It also incorporated 
the substance of the Commission's November 21, 
1979 policy statement by directing that the license 
be modified to : 

[P]rohibit venting or purging or other 
treatment of the reactor building atmos- 
phere, discharge of water decontaminated 
by the EPICOR-II system, and the treat- 
ment and disposal of high-level radioac- 
tivity contaminated water in the reactor 
building, until each of these activities has 
been approved by the NRC, consistent 
with the Commission's Statement of 
Policy and Notice of Intent to Prepare 
a Programmatic Environmental Impact 
Statement. (442) 

The NRR order set forth procedures by which 
the licensee "or any person whose interest may be 
affected" could request a hearing with respect to 
two issues : (1) whether the new requirements were 
"necessary and sufficient for the maintenance of 
the facility to protect health and safety or to mini- 
mize danger to life and property" and (2) whether 
the order "would significantly affect the quality 
of the human environment." (443) 

Requests for hearings were filed by two indi- 
viduals and one organization, the Environmental 
Coalition for Nuclear Power. (444) ENCP noted 
that in April and May 1979 it had asked the NRC 
to hold hearings on the "very issue of changes in 
the Technical Specifications pertaining to the shift 
from Operational Mode to Recovery Mode." (445) 


Once again, a review of events this time of the 
regulatory proceedings reveals numerous di- 
lemmas and unprecedented problems. The licensee, 
for obvious reasons, wants to complete the cleanup 
as quickly as possible, and in fact, the condition 
of the plant suggests a need for prompt action. Yet 
legal and regulatory procedures call for decisions 

1M The proposed classes included : Class I all individuals, partnerships, corporations, institutions and other busi- 
ness and professional entities within a 25-mile radius of TMI that suffered economic harm as a result of the accident ; 
Class II all real property owners and residents within a 25-mile radius who suffered economic harm as a result of the 
accident; and Class III all individuals within a 25-mile radius who suffered personal injury, incurred medical ex- 
penses, suffered emotional distress or will require medical services to monitor the possibility of latent defects from 
exposure to radiation. (450) 

The damages allegedly sustained include "a substantially increased probability of incurring cancer and/or genetic 
defects because of exposure to radiation; damages associated with the necessity of evacuation; reduction in the finan- 
cial value of property and business; contamination or spoilage of products; and work stoppages." (451) 

to be made deliberately after weighing alterna- 
tives and affording opportunities for public com- 
ment. The NRC has followed the necessarily de- 
liberate procedures established to achieve these ob- 
jectives, while maintaining the right to act 
promptly under certain conditions. As it proceeds 
in this fashion, the NRC must deal, as must the 
utility, with the distrust and vocal opposition of 
many residents around Three Mile Island. 


Judicial and regulatory proceedings will also in- 
fluence the cost of the accident to the licensee. 

Civil Tort Actions 

Following the accident, Met Ed, Jersey Central, 
PENELEC and GPU were named as defendants 
in numerous civil lawsuits brought by private 
parties seeking to recover for alleged personal and 
property damage. (446) Plaintiffs have charged, 
among other things, negligence or willful miscon- 
duct with respect to the design, construction, 
operation and maintenance of the TMI facility and 
with respect to the nature of the information re- 
leased to the public as events progressed. (447) 
Strict liability claims also have been asserted, 
based on the alleged "miscarriage of an ultra- 
hazardous activity," namely the operation of a 
nuclear reactor. (448) 

Early in the proceedings, for reasons of judicial 
economy, most of the lawsuits were consolidated 
in Federal District Court into a single class ac- 
tion lawsuit called Fantasky v. GPU. (449) More 
than 60 named plaintiffs, representing businesses, 
property owners and residents, are part of 
Fantasky. The plaintiffs proposed to represent 
not only themselves, but similarly aggrieved 
parties who might not bring their own lawsuits. 126 

This class action suit requests monetary dam- 
ages, an order "directing that the [TMI] nuisance 
be abated," and imposition of a "constructive 
trust" on property owned by the defendants to pay 
for the cost of medical diagnosis and treatment of 
"possible cancerous and abnormal genetic con- 
ditions." (452) 

Early in the proceedings the parties in Fan- 
agreed that the plaintiffs may represent 


Price-Anderson, however, will not necessarily 
limit the total exposure of the GPU companies to 
$15 million. According to GPU's 1979 annual re- 
port, the lawsuits for personal and property dam- 
ages (including claims for punitive damages) and 
the injunction actions have raised questions 
whether certain claims "material in amount" are 
subject to the liability limits of Price- Anderson or 
are outside the insurance coverage provided pur- 
suant to the statutory scheme. (463) 

Price- Anderson has other provisions that may 
be pertinent to the pending civil tort actions. In a 
severe nuclear incident, described as an "extraordi- 
nary nuclear occurrence," Price-Anderson pro- 
vides that a licensee covered by the statute's system 
of financial protection may be required to waive 
certain legal defenses. (464) When the waiver 
occurs, the plaintiff no longer has to prove the 
licensee's negligence and, in addition, may insti- 
tute his action at any time within three years from 
when he "knew, or reasonably could have known" 
of his accident-related injury or damage, so long 
as the action is not begun more than 20 years after 
the incident. (465) The plaintiff still must prove 
injury or damage, the monetary amount of the loss 
and the causal link between that loss and the nu- 
clear accident. 

Price- Anderson assigns the XRC responsibility 
for making the critical judgment whether an ac- 
cident is an "extraordinary nuclear occurrence" or 
"EXO." The statute defines an EXO as 

. . . any event causing a discharge or 
dispersal of source, special nuclear, or 
byproduct material from its intended 
place of confinement in amounts offsite 
or causing radiation levels offsite which 
the Commission determines to be sub- 
stantial, and which the Commission de- 
termines has resulted or will probably re- 
sult in substantial damages to persons 
offsite or property offsite. (466) 
and adds that the 

Commission shall establish criteria in 
writing setting forth the basis upon 
which the determination shall be made. 

The Commission's criteria are embodied in the 
Federal Regulations at 10 C.F.R. Part 140. 

On July 23. 1979. the XRC published a notice 
that it was initiating proceedings to make an 
EXO determination. (468) On August 17 the 

is presently set at $560 million according to the formula set forth in the statute at 42 U.S.C. section 
) Price-Anderson also provides that Congress may take "necessary and appropriate" action-such as pro- 
ding for -additional payment to claimants if damages exceed $560 million. 42 U.SC section 2210e 

If that l" PxhVi * 14 miUi ^ n in artli tJ-Purchased private insurance is available for the accident, 

that is exhausted, the utilities may be assessed a maximum of $335 million. If that, too, is exhausted the Govern- 
roeram covers a maximum of $85 million. With respect to the $335 million from utilities, the amount 
nuclear reactor plant licensees so that each pays a premium of $5 million. (461) 
it i involved in the accident thus is assessed no more than any other licensee. Since the GPU 
three operating licenses, their maximum assessment would be Slo million. 

all aggrieved parties falling within Classes I and 
II. (453) The plaintiffs' attempt to represent Class 
III members was disputed. The issue, together 
with a U.S. magistrate's recommendation, has been 
submitted to the District Judge, but as of late May, 
no decision had been rendered. (-454) 

In addition to the Fantasky consolidated class 
action, many other civil tort actions still were 
pending in late May 1980. There was. for example, 
a second class action involving dozens of plaintiffs 
seeking both monetary damages of at least $560 
million and also punitive damages. (455) More- 
over, another lawsuit was pending involving a 
couple who alleged that radioactive releases from 
TMI during the accident had caused the stillbirth 
of their daughter some 5 months later. (456) 

For reasons of judicial economy, all suits filed 
since the Fantasky class action have been consoli- 
dated with Fanta$ky. absent a showing that a suit 
should be treated separately. (457) This will per- 
mit consideration of common legal and factual 
issues in a single proceeding. 

It is difficult to predict how long the civil tort 
will last. In late Mav. more than one year 
after the accident, the Fantasky consolidated 
class action was still in a relatively early, proce- 
dural stage. (458) Because of the dispute over 
Class III plaintiffs, notice to the prospective class 
had not yet been provided. Xo final adjudication of 
the class action litigation is possible until such 
notice is given so that prospective class members 
have an opportunity to advise the court whether 
they wish to be represented by the plaintiffs. Liti- 
gation could continue for years after the notice is 

Although the civil tort actions involve substan- 
tial sums of money, the potential financial burden 
imposed on the GPU companies is limited in part 
by the Price- Anderson Act. as amended. (459) 
which is designed in part to reduce the financial 
exposure of any one licensee in the event of a 
nuclear accident. Price- Anderson limits the total 
amount of claims that must be paid to persons in- 
jured in a "nuclear incident" 12T and provides for 
these claims to be covered under a system of utility- 
purchased private insurance, retrospective premi- 
ums assessed against the utilities, and government 
indemnity. (400) Under this system of financial 
protection. Met Ed. Jersey Central and PEXE- 
"2 do not expect to be assessed more than $15 
million in retrospective premiums for all the TMI- 
generated public liability claims. 128 (462) 


Commission formed a panel of staff to assemble 
the relevant information, evaluate public com- 
ments and report to the Commission its findings 
and recommendation. (469) 

In December 1979, the staff sent its report to 
the Commission. The panel concluded : 

. . . that the first criterion, pertaining to 
whether the accident caused a discharge 
of radioactive material or levels of ra- 
diation offsite as defined in 10 C.F.R. 
140.84, has not been met, [The panel] 
. . . further finds that there is presently 
insufficient information to support any 
definitive finding as to whether or not the 
second criterion, relating to damage to 
persons or property offsite as defined in 
10 C.F.R. 140.85, has been met. Since 
the Panel has not found that both 
criteria have been met, it recommends 
that the Commission determine that the 
accident at Three Mile Island did not 
constitute an "extraordinary nuclear oc- 
currence." (470) 

In April 1980, the Commission made a final 
determination that the accident did not constitute 
an "extraordinary nuclear occurrence," as defined 
by the Price-Anderson Act and the Commission's 
regulations. Noting that "in ordinary parlance" 
the accident was "extraordinary," the Commission 
nonetheless found that the radiological releases 
associated with the accident did not rise to the 
levels required for an ENO determination. (471) 

Even assuming the plaintiffs are not able to 
prove negligence in their tort actions, the Commis- 
sion's conclusion will not necessarily have a deci- 
sive effect on the outcome of these lawsuits. In 
addition to alleging negligence, the plaintiffs have 
also been arguing that defendants are strictly liable 
under State law, that is, without regard to whether 
they acted negligently. (472) A finding of no ENO 
will have no legal effect on these separate strict 
liability claims. Moreover, GPU and its subsidi- 
aries may not insist that the plaintiffs prove negli- 
gence. Court papers filed well before the Commis- 
sion's determination indicated that the defendants 
in Fantasky had made an undertaking not to re- 
quire any person claiming compensatory damages 
for personal injury to prove negligence and might 
be willing to make a similar agreement with plain- 
tiffs alleging economic loss. (473) 

Stockholder Suits 

GPU is also a defendant in litigation instituted 
by its own stockholders. Two class actions were 
brought in Federal District Court against GPU 
and a number of the companies' directors on be- 
half of GPU stockholders. (474) 

The lawsuits include charges that defendants 

128 See "Prior to the Accident," pp. 77-78. 


violated the securities laws by failing to disclose to 
stockholders and the public defects in the design, 
installation and operation of TMI Unit 2, all of 
which allegedly were known by defendants prior 
to the accident. As a result of the alleged non- 
disclosures, plaintiffs said they purchased GPU 
stocks at inflated prices. (475) 

For judicial economy, these stockholder class 
actions were consolidated in the U.S. District 
Court for the District of New Jersey. (476) The 
District Court certified a class that includes pur- 
chasers of GPU common stock from August 25, 
1975 through April 1, 1979. (477) As of mid- 
March, notices had not gone out to the class. 

GPU Suit Against Babcock & Wilcox 

In one noteworthy instance, GPU instituted 
its own lawsuit as a result of the accident. In 
March 1980, GPU and its three utility subsidiaries 
commenced a civil damage action in Federal Dis- 
trict Court against Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), 
the nuclear reactor supplier for TMI, and against 
B&Ws parent company. (478) One newspaper 
article described the suit as a "jarring break in 
what had been a united industry front on nuclear 
power questions." (479) 

Asserting four separate causes of action, the 
complaint charged ( 1 ) gross negligence and reck- 
less disregard of foreseeable consequences or, in 
the alternative, ordinary negligence; (2) strict 
liability because of the risks and consequences of 
an accident resulting from defects for which B&W 
was responsible; (3) breach of contract; and (4) 
breach of implied warranties. (480) 

As respects their negligence claims, the plain- 
tiffs alleged, in part, that B&W had received 
"prior warnings" of problems as a result of "simi- 
lar incidents" at the Davis-Besse plant. 129 They 
also alleged "inadequacies" in the B&W nuclear 
steam supply system, related equipment, limits and 
precautions, procedures and training. (481) 

As damages, plaintiffs cited, among other items, 
the expense of purchasing replacement power, 
cleanup costs and the loss of a reasonable return on 
capital invested in Unit 2. Plaintiffs' complaint 
said that damages had exceeded $500 million with 
the anticipation of "very substantial future dam- 
ages." (482) 


Civil Penalties 

Seven months after the accident, the Director of 
the Office of Inspection and Enforcement (I&E) 
served Met Ed with a Notice of Violation and a 
Notice of Proposed Issuance of Civil Penalties. 
Based on its investigation of the accident, I&E 
described a number of instances of "apparent non- 


compliance" with NEC's regulations, the Techni- 
cal Specifications for Unit 2 and the procedures 
mandated by the Technical Specifications. (483) 

I&E cited six "violations," ten ''infractions'' and 
one "deficiency." Most of the proposed penalties 
related to a single violation Met Ed's failure to 
block off the pilot -operated relief valve on the re- 
actor's pressurizer from October 1978 until some 
two hours after the accident began on March 28, 
1979. 130 (484) For this alleged violation, each day 
of non-compliance was treated as a separate offense 
subject to a $5,000 penalty, resulting in a cumula- 
tive civil penalty of $630.000. (485) 

The total amount of civil penalties for all items 
added up to $725,000. (486) However, by statute, 
the maximum assessable civil penalty for any 30- 
day period was $25.000. 131 (487) Since the viola- 
tions related to a five-month period from October 
1978 through March 28. 1979, I&E's proposed pen- 
alty thus was reduced to $155.000. (488) It was still 
the largest civil penalty the XRC had proposed up 
to that time. 

On January 23. 1980. after receiving Met Ed]s 
response to the items of "apparent non-compli- 
ance" and proposed penalties (489). I&E issued a 
formal order imposing $155,000 in civil penalties. 
(490) On February 14, 1980. Met Ed paid the fines, 
foregoing its right to a hearing. (491) 

Imposition and payment of the $155.000 in civil 
fines did not bring an end to the XRC's considera- 
tion of accident-related penalties against Met Ed. 
On March 4. 1980, the XRC's Special Inquiry 
Group, which had previously investigated and re- 
ported on the accident for the Commission, sub- 
mitted a supplementary report to the Commission 
Chairman concerning whether Met Ed officials had 
intentionally withheld information from the XRC 
as the accident unfolded on March 28, 1979. (492) 
The supplementary report said that there was in- 
direct evidence from which one could infer that 
information was intentionally withheld, but that 
the record, taken as a whole, did "not permit the 
unbiased observer" to reach this conclusion "based 
on actual evidence." (493) With this report in 
hand, the XRC formed a group to assess the ade- 
quacy of the Special Inquiry's work on this issue 
and to determine whether further action, such as 
civil penalties, might be required. (494) As of 
May 1080. this assessment was still continuing. 

XRC staff members also have considered the 
charges of Harold Hartman. a former TMT con- 

trol room operator, who alleged that for months 
prior to the accident, Met Ed employees had been 
falsifying test data on the rate of leakage of the 
same pilot-operated relief valve that stuck open on 
the day of the accident. 132 According to a report 
published May 15, 1980, a separate Federal Grand 
Jury investigation began into Hartman's charges. 
The report suggested that while the Grand Jury 
was questioning Met Ed employees as individuals, 
the inquiry might be expanded to include Met Ed 
management. Pending completion of the Grand 
Jury investigation, the XRC will not pursue in- 
formation being looked into by the Grand Jury. 

In April 1980, civil penalties also were assessed 
by the Director of I&E against Babcock & Wil- 
cox (B&W). It was the first time such a penalty 
had been proposed by XRC staff for a company s 
activities as a reactor supplier. (496) The pro- 
posed fine, which totaled $100.000. 133 was based on 
four items of non-compliance. Each cited item re- 
lated to B&Ws alleged failure to evaluate and 
report on significant safety information, including 
information set forth in the Michelson Report, 1 ** 
in violation of 10 C.F.R. Part 21. (497) In trans- 
mitting the charges to B&W, I&E's Director 
charged generally that B&W "did not have an 
effective system for collection, review and evalua- 
tion, and reporting of important safety informa- 
tion." (498) In its May 20, 1980 response, B&W 
denied the charges, but paid the fine, saying that 
further proceedings would be "tune-consuming, 
expensive and needlessly divert" the attention of 
"critical personnel and resources." (499) 

Suspension of TMI-2's License 

Another matter pending before the NBC is the 
status of the Unit 2 Operating License. On July ,20, 
1979, the N3JR, as noted, had issued an order for- 
mallv suspending this license. On October 25. 1979, 
the Commission held a meeting at which the issue 
of the license was discussed. Commissioner Gilin- 
sky recommended that the Unit 2 license should be 
revoked because revocation, unlike suspension, 
would be "a very strong statement" of the Com- 
mission's position. (500) Suspension, in his view, 
was only "an intermediate step between not taking 
action and revoking licenses." (501) Commissioner 
Ahearne agreed that revocation would "be seen as 
different by the public," (502) but argued that 
"revocation of TMI-2's license is not meaningful. 

"" See "Prior to the Accident." pp. 71-72. for a discussion of the leakage. 

m Both the House and Senate, in action on the XRC authorization Mil for fiscal year 1980. passed provisions that 
would allow XRC to impose civil penalties of up to $100.000 per violation and would eliminate any limitation on the 
penalty amount assessable in a 30-day period. As of mid-May the authorization bill had been agreed to in conference 
and was awaiting enactment. 

m See 'Prior to the Accident." p. 71. fn. 49. for more details on the charges made by Hartman. 

Each day of non-compliance was treated as a separate violation subject to a $5.000 penalty, resulting In a cnmo- 
lative penalty of $575.000. As was true of the penalty against Met Ed, however, the $25,000 statutory limit for any 30- 
day period reduced the assessable penalty to $100,000. 

"* See "Prior to the Accident," p. 78, for a discussion of this report. 


given the status of that system." (503) In 
Ahearne's view : 

I do not think it would be seen as differ- 
ent in substance by any of the people who 
are knowledgeable with the proceedings 
or the fact of the plant or any of that side 
of the nuclear industry. I think it will be 
perceived by the industry side . . . even 
. . . the public interest side who are famil- 
iar with it as an attempt by the Commis- 
sion to position itself in a way that makes 
it look as though they're taking a strong 
stance. (504) 

The Commissioners voted on whether to revoke 
Unit 2's license. Gilinsky and Bradford voted for 
revocation, Hendrie and Ahearne against it j Com- 
missioner Kennedy was not present. The tie vote 
meant that the Unit 2 license would remain sus- 
pended. (505) 

Restart of Unit 1 

The agency also has to decide what to do about 
the operation of Unit 1. On March 28, that facility 
was about to resume operation after being out of 
service for refueling. It has remained shut down 
since, initially because of attention to the accident, 
then because it was subject to an NEC shutdown 
order for plants with the B&W nuclear steam 
supply systems used in Unit 2. The NEC subse- 
quently permitted other affected plants to resume 
operation. At that time, Met Ed advised the NRC 
that it would not restart Unit 1 without provid- 
ing advance notice. (506) Shortly thereafter, on 
June 28, 1979, the licensee informed the NRC of 
various actions it proposed to take prior to re- 
starting Unit 1, including, 

all those [actions] . . . proposed or re- 
quired in respect of the other B&W units, 
as well as additional actions that Met Ed 
believed appropriate. (507) 

On July 2, 1979, the Commission ordered the 
facility to remain in cold shutdown until further 
notice. (508) On August 9, the Commission issued 
another order explaining its action. (509) Beyond 
the questions relating to the B&W design, the 
Commission identified several other issues requir- 
ing resolution, including the potential interaction 
between Unit 1 and the damaged Unit 2, Met Ed's 
management capabilities and technical resources, 
the potential effect of decontamination operations 
on Unit 1, and the "recognized deficiencies" in the 
licensee's emergency plans and operational proce- 
dures. (510) 

The Commission specified short- and long-term 
actions needed to resolve some of the concerns 
Unit 1 was to stay shut down pending "satisfac- 
tory completion of the short-term actions and 

reasonable progress" toward completion of the 
long-term ones. (511) The Commission designated 
the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to conduct 
hearings and render an initial determination on 
the resumption of Unit 1 operations. The NRC in- 
dicated that the Board's recommendation would be 
transmitted directly to the Commission for its final 
decision. (512) 

In the following months, the Licensing Board 
ruled on petitions from parties wanting to inter- 
vene, determined what contentions would be 
heard, and reviewed other pre-hearing matters. 
Among those permitted to intervene were the 
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the County of 
Dauphin, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Public 
Utility Commission, the Union of Concerned 
Scientists, and a number of other organizations 
with members residing near TMI. (513) 

When the Unit 1 restart hearings begin, the 
Board will take evidence on a number of issues, 
among them whether the licensee's decontamina- 
tion and restoration work on Unit 2 can be com- 
pleted without affecting the safe operation of Unit 
L and whether the licensee's financial condition 
might undermine its ability to operate Unit 1 
safely. (514) As of late May, the Board had not 
decided whether it would also consider the psycho- 
logical distress of citizens living near TML 135 

In its August 9, 1979 order, the Commission said 
it expected the Board to conduct the proceeding 
'expeditiously." It set initial "milestones," calling 
for the Unit 1 restart hearings to begin about 
February 1980. (517) Yet, as of late May 1980, it 
was unlikely that hearings would begin before the 
fall, 136 (521) and no firm date for a final decision 
had been set. 


Met Ed and PENELEC are regulated by the 
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) 
and Jersey Central by the New Jersey Board of 
Public Utilities (New Jersey Utilities Board). As 
discussed earlier, the regulatory commissions have 
been determining how much customers must pay 
for their power while Units 1 and 2 are out of 

On June 15, 1979, the Pennsylvania PUC re- 
moved from Met Ed's and PENELEC's rate bases 
all costs associated with Unit 2, including clean- 

In late February 1980, the Licensing Board recommended to the Commission that evidence on the issue of 
K g ?A^ eSS bC K a ? en . d Vl lng the restart hearin ^. (515) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, among others, 
had ^fff. "mt the psychological health of residents had to be considered in deciding whether to restart Unit 1. (516) 

the \ L Tnnn^i iof '/Jj e , llCe ? S f es " ta l get " date for restartin g Unit 1. assuming a' favorable decision from 
i iL! <Ja / e 1 ( ; onslde 1 red optimistic by some. (519) Before the XRC decided to hold restart 
had talked of restarting no later than January 1, 1980. (520) 


up repair, disposal of wastes and decontamina- 
tion. (522) It stated that a utility is entitled to 
charge rates permitting a fair return on property 
that is "used and useful in the public service" and 
that Unit 2 was no longer "used and useful." (523) 
It explained : 

There is a great uncertainty with respect 
to when, and in fact if ever, TMI-2 will 
resume operation. Respondents estimate 
that TMI-2 will be out of service for two 
to four years. However, no one has been 
able to determine the extent of damage to 
the fuel core. Design and operation 
changes may be ordered by the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission, but these are as 
yet unknown. Public sentiment has been 
expressed against the renewed operation 
of TMI-2 : and the cost of repair, cleanup 
and waste removal may be so high as to 
make restoration of the plant uneco- 
nomic. (524) 

The Pennsylvania PUC did not reach the same 
conclusion for Unit 1 at this time. Noting that 
GPU's president had said Unit 1 could be generat- 
ing power "as early as August 1979, and certainly 
no later than January 1, 1980," the PUC con- 
cluded that "TMI-1 is at present only experienc- 
ing an outage" and would not be removed from 
the rate base. 137 (526) However, the PUC said it 
would "monitor the status'" of Unit 1, and if start- 
up were delayed beyond January 1, 1980, it would 
begin proceedings to decide whether Unit 1 
should remain in the rate base. (527) 

At the same time as it removed Unit 2 costs from 
the rate bases, the PUC held in favor of the two 
utilities on the important issue of replacement 
power. Before the accident. Units 1 and 2 had 
provided roughly 30 percent of the energy of the 
GPU system. u.2S) After the accident, the utili- 
ties continued to provide electric service to their 
customers by purchasing power from other 
sources. (529) Among them was the so-called 
Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnec- 
tion. 13S a utility pooling arrangement that per- 
mits bulk purchases at reduced rates. (531) 

In its June 15 decision, the Pennsylvania PUC 
granted rate relief to help meet replacement power 
costs, 139 The PUC reasoned that if the utilities 
had not bought replacement power, they would 

have had to reduce service to consumers or increase 
use of the utilities' existing plants, "many of 
which have higher operating costs than the costs 
of purchased power." (533) The PUC found the 
power replacement purchases "to be in the public 
interest," (534) and said that: 

The purchase of energy is a reasonable 
and necessary cost of providing service 
which must be recovered from rate- 
payers. Service cannot be provided with- 
out cost. It is equitable for the ratepayers 
of Met Ed and PEXELEC to pay the 
costs of purchasing power since they are 
receiving service and will be paying none 
of the costs of TMI-2. (535) 

The PUC further emphasized that : 

[T]he total rates for electric service to the 
customers of Met Ed and PEXELEC will 
be no greater than the rates which would 
have been allowed had the incident never 
occurred. 140 (538) 

By September 1979, it had become apparent that 
Unit 1 would not be back in operation before 
January 1, 1980. The Pennsylvania PUC there- 
fore commenced a proceeding to determine 
whether costs associated with that unit should be 
removed from the rate bases of Met Ed and 
PEXELEC. (539) 

In their formal response, the utilities blamed 
the NRC, claiming they had been trying to con- 
vince the agency to adopt procedures permitting 
an early restart of TMI-l. (540) They charged 
"discriminatory action" : 

Respondents have been, and are, totally 
unable to understand how the XRC could 
so disregard the national and public in- 
terests involved in permitting restart of 
TMI-l as early as it can be demonstrated 
that such restart is consistent with the 
public health and safety. (541) 

The utilities noted that their existing rates were 
neither the lowest in the Commonwealth, nor the 
highest. (542) The utilities also raised the prob- 
lem of cash flow. They stated that they had "had 
to borrow substantial amounts*' from the banks to 
provide the cash needed to purchase replacement 
power, and that removal of Unit 1 costs from the 
rate base might adversely affect the willingness of 

^ The GPU president's prediction was made before the NRC directed that Unit 1 remain shut down. The State 
order also predated the NRC's action agrainst Unit 1. i 525) 

m The GPU companies also were able to make bulk purchases from other power supplies. In July through November 
I'.t7',. fur example, they received substantial energy from outside the Interconnection pool. (530) 

"The relief granted amounted to about 85 percent of actual replacement power costs. (532) 

^According to the PUC. this conclusion was based on a comparison of average revenues from the rates set in its 
Order with average revenues derived from base rates including the costs of Unit 2 and energy rates charged prior to the 
accident. (536) In November 1979. GPU's president testified that the PUC's rate decisions meant that customers were 
paying essentially what they would have paid had Unit 2 never been built. (537) 


these lenders to continue to provide the necessary 
cash: 141 (543) 

Respondents will continue to take all 
actions available to them to continue to 
render adequate, reliable service to their 
customers. . . . But Respondents do not 
possess the ability to ensure that such 
service will be rendered. The action taken 
by ... [the Pennsylvania PUC], and the 
response of the banks to that action, are 
major determinants of both the adequacy 
and the cost of such service. (544) 

In early November 1979, the Pennsylvania PUC 
commenced another proceeding, this time just 
against Met Ed, to determine whether that utility 
should lose its certificate of public convenience 
its franchise to provide electric power in Penn- 
sylvania. (545) The PUC noted that Met Ed was 
likely to incur substantial expenses as a result of 
the accident, and also that the President's Com- 
mission had found "a number of important 
cases" before the accident in which GPU and Met 
Ed had been guilty of "a serious lack of com- 
munication about several critical safety matters" 
relating to the operation of Unit 2. (546) Accord- 
ing to the PUC, there thus were : 

. . . serious questions about the continued 
ability of Met Ed to provide safe, ade- 
quate, and reliable electric service at just 
and reasonable rates. The Commission, 
therefore, finds it in the public interest to 
put at issue . . . the continued viability of 
Met Ed as a public utility. (547) 

The PUC consolidated the issue of Met Ed's 
viability as a utility with the issue of TMI-l's 
"used and useful" status and also with a request 
made by Met Ed on November 1, 1979 for addi- 
tional rate relief to cover increased replacement 
power costs. (548) 

In December, the Pennsylvania PUC began for- 
mal hearings on the three issues. 

On February 8, 1980, with hearings still contin- 
uing, the Pennsylvania PUC granted Met Ed an 
interim rate increase to meet its higher replace- 
ment power costs. The increase provided Met Ed 
an estimated $55 million during 1980, (549) but 
was made subject to adjustments reflecting the 
final results of the PUC's inquiry. (550) 

The interim rate relief had followed a decision 
by the PUC that its proceedings would not be 
completed until May 23, 1980. In its interim rate 
order, the PUC said : 

[W]e do not intend to engage in 'brink- 
manship. The present financial condition 

of Met Ed is too serious a matter and of 
too great importance to the public Met 
Ed serves to warrant the risk of further 
financial burden brought on by delay 
arising from the inability of the parties 
to meet the intended schedule of the Com- 
mission. We are convinced that the public 
interest requires that this Commission 
provide Met Ed's bank creditors with the 
requisite assurance that they can ulti- 
mately be repaid. (551) 

On May 9, 1980, after twenty-seven days of 
hearings, the Pennsylvania PUC rendered its 
initial decision on the three issues before it. 142 
Describing these issues as "exceedingly difficult" 
to resolve, the PUC said that it 

. . . has had to balance the need to explore 
and carefully examine Met Ed's contin- 
uing, long-term viability against the ur- 
gency to act promptly to avoid being 
overtaken by events. In addition, the 
Commission has had to resolve the com- 
peting concerns of creditors who want 
assurances of earnings and ratepayers 
who want equity in allocating the costs 
associated with the . . . accident; and who 
see an inequitable duplication in paying 
the costs of TMI-1 and the costs of 
TMI-1 replacement power; and of ... 
[the utilities] who would emphasize their 
financial needs and other parties seeking 
a determination based on other economic, 
social, and political principles. (553) 

The PUC's conclusion, it said, was that "Met 
Ed should continue to operate as a public util- 
ity/' (554) The PUC described its order as pro- 

... an adequate framework for Met 
Ed's recovery. Respondent must convince 
its bank creditors that it has the will and 
the ability to rehabilitate itself. (555) 

The PUC's decision criticized the Federal Gov- 
ernment : 

Regretably, the Commission must 
again decry the failure of the Federal 
Government to respond to the accident at 
Three Mile Island with financial assist- 
ance that is commensurate with its re- 
sponsibility for nuclear energy . . . The 
people of Pennsylvania should not have 
to bear the entire burden emotionally 
or financially where that burden prop- 
erly belongs to all those who have bene- 

141 See "Financial Aspects of Recovery," pp. 191-193, for further details about this lending arrangement and its fi- 
nancial implications. 

M2 This was an "initial decision." After a two-week period for the filing of exceptions by the parties, a final order 
with changes not pertinent to this discussion, was issued on May 23, 1980. (552) 


fitted from the development of nuclear 
energy. * 

. . . [W]hat is painfully clear is that an 
economic catastrophe has befallen the 
GPU Companies, and their ratepayers 
and investors as well. We believe that 
Congress has a parallel responsibility to 
act in this situation, noting that when the 
prospect of a nuclear "incident" seemed 
remote, Federal willingness to render as- 
sistance to the nuclear industry was free- 
flowing. Now that such a tragedy has be- 
come more than a remote possibility, that 
willingness has dissipated. Never has it 
been more true that victor)' has a thou- 
sand followers, but that defeat is an or- 
phan. (556) 

Specifically, the PUC declined to revoke Met 
Ed's Certificate of Public Convenience "because 
we find no imminent and foreseeable threat to con- 
tinued provision of adequate and reliable serv- 
ice at reasonable rates." (557) However, the PUC 
left open the possibility that it would consider the 
issue again if necessary. (558) 

Second, the PUC removed capital and operat- 
ing costs associated with Unit 1 from the base 
rates of Met Ed and PENELEC on the ground 
that Unit 1 was no longer "used and useful" in 
the public service. In explaining its decision, the 
PUC noted the ongoing NRC proceedings re- 
garding restart of Unit 1 and said that there was 
"substantial uncertainty'' as to when or whether 
the facility would be returned to service. 143 It 
added, however, that if and when the NRC al- 
lows the restart of Unit 1. the PUC would give 
"priority treatment" to reconsidering its determi- 
nation on this issue. (560) The PUC also said that 

Met Ed must aggressively pursue the 
return to sen-ice of TMI-1 or an early de- 
cision on its conversion and use of an al- 
ternative fuel. (561) 

Third, the PUC concluded that Met Ed and 
PEXELEC should have rate relief needed to per- 
mit full and current recovery of their replacement 
power costs. 144 The Commission said that its de- 
termination to do so was "inseparably inter- 
twined" with its decision to remove Unit 1 costs 
from the utilities' rate bases; and that the rate 
relief should lessen the utilities' need for short- 

term borrowing and facilitate the utilities' efforts 
to obtain permanent financing. (563) 

Fourth, the PUC determined that the utilities 
should receive additional rate relief to permit 
them to recover over an eighteen month period cer- 
tain energy costs that had not previously been 
covered through rate-making, including previ- 
ously unreimbursed replacement power costs. 

New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities has been 
similarly involved in rate-making issues. The 
Board regulates Jersey Central, which, like PEX- 
ELEC, shared in the cost of operating Units 1 and 
2 and prior to the accident drew power from the 
TMI facilities. 

On June 18, 1979, the New Jersey Board of Pub- 
lic Utilities took much the same approach as the 
Pennsylvania PUC. (565) The Board concluded 
that TMI-2 was not "used and useful" in providing 
service to customers and reduced Jersey Central's 
rate base by $29 million; it refused to take out 
TMI-1 costs, finding that "the outage of this facil- 
ity is of a temporary duration" ; and it permitted 
Jersey Central to recover about 85 percent of its 
estimated replacement power costs. (566) The 
Board also ordered the utility not to pay any divi- 
dends to its parent, GPU, for the remainder of 
1979. (567) 

Early in 1980, Jersey Central requested addi- 
tional rate increases, some but not all of which re- 
lated to TMI costs. The request led the New Jersey 
Board to consider whether Unit 1 costs should be 
removed from Jersey Central's rate base and 
whether the utility should receive additional rate 
increases for TMI-related replacement power 
costs. (568) 

On April 1, 1980, the Board rendered two related 
decisions. In the first, it granted a rate increase for 
an eleven-month period to cover replacement 
power expenses associated with Unit 1. (569) In 
the second, the Board removed costs associated 
with Unit 1 from Jersey Central's rate base on 
the ground that the facility was not "used and 
useful." Like the Pennsylvania PUC, the Board 
concluded that the NRC restart proceedings would 
keep TMI-1 out of service for an extended period, 
at least two years the Board estimated. The Board 
added that "if and when" Unit 1 is returned to 
service, the Board would "expeditiously return the 
unit to ... [the] rate base." (570) Having removed 
Unit 1 costs from the rate base, the Board approved 
other action to help soften the financial effect. It 

lu Although the utilities testified to an estimated in-service date of January 1, 1981, there was testimony from the 
Pl'C's consultant that mid-1983 was a realistic start-up date for Unit 1. The PUC also noted that the NBC's restart 
proceedings would be considering, in part, whether Unit 1 could he safely operated before completion of Unit 2 cleanup 
and that a GPU official had estimated that cleanup would not likely be completed until after June 1983. (559) 

1M The PUC added that not "every dollar of purchased power costs" on the utilities books would be recoverable 
from the ratepayers. According to the PUC, the costs would be subject to audit and review and thereafter a Commission 
determination that specific amounts "were imprudently or unreasonably incurred." (562) 


permitted the utility to recover through rate in- 
creases certain energy costs that had been incurred 
prior to TMI and had not previously been covered 
through ratemaking. The amount the Board au- 
thorized Jersey Central to recover was $17.9 mil- 
lion in annual revenues, the same amount the 
utility was having taken out of its rate base because 
of the Board's decision on TMI-1 costs. (571) In 
rendering these decisions, the New Jersey Board 
said that it was aware of Jersey Central's serious 
condition and would work toward its preservation 
as an onsjoino; concern. (572) 

Despite the favorable relief granted, New Jer- 
sey's decision to remove Unit 1 costs from the rate 
base led the banks to send GPU a letter, dated 
April 9, 1980. In it, they said that "substantial 
questions" remained as to the financial viability 
of the utilities and that the $292 million credit 
limit would not be raised until there was "greater 
assurance" of viability, "including favorable regu- 
latory action." (573) 

On May 13, 1980, the New Jersey Utilities Board 
granted Jersey Central additional, immediate rate 
relief totaling $60 million. (574) Although this 
relief was not directly attributable to TMI, it 
nonetheless meant that Jersey Central would have 
substantial additional revenues. 

Two days later, on May 15, 1980, the banks sent 
another letter to GPU. (575) This letter termed 
the recent rate rulings as "significantly respon- 
sive" " 5 but said "substantial questions" remained 
as to the borrowers' ongoing financial viability. 
The banks expressed particular concern over the 
Pennsylvania PUC's May 9 decision to remove 
Unit 1 costs from Met Ed's rate base. 

Apart from its rate-making decisions, the New 
Jersey Board of Public Utilities has been involved 
in other issues of concern to Jersey Central. On 
January 23, 1980, the Board decided to evaluate 
several issues relating to Jersey Central's relative 
fault for the accident, the regulatory consequences 
of a finding of fault, the Board's legal authority 
to impose those consequences and the implications 
for the ratepayers and Jersey Central. (577) It 
asked Jersey Central and other parties to set forth 
their positions on these issues. (578) 

The Board of Public Utilities also has been as- 
sessing alternatives to Jersey Central's existing 
operations. In early 1980 the Board retained 
Arthur Young and Company to analyze a broad 
range of options for Jersey Central, including the 
transfer of part of Jersey Central's Service Terri- 
tory or a State takeover of the utility. (579) 

Regulatory proceedings also have been invoked 
as part of the attempt by GPU and its subsidiaries 
to modify the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland 
(PJM) Interconnection Agreement. The GPU 
companies have been purchasing replacement 
power from the PJM pool on a split-savings ba- 
sis each GPU utility had to pay a price halfway 
between the cost to the selling utility and what it 
would have cost the GPU utility to produce the 
power through its own facilities. (580) In its 
June 19, 1979 order authorizing rate adjustments 
to reflect replacement power purchases, the Penn- 
sylvania PUC directed Met Ed and PENELEC 
to negotiate with other members of the PJM pool 
for pricing not on a split-savings basis, but at 
cost. (581) 

Met Ed, PENELEC and Jersey Central were 
unable to convince the other members of the pool 
to agree to this. However, the members did pro- 
pose to allow TMI-related purchases at cost plus 
10 percent. (582) In October 1979, it was estimated 
that if this change were put into effect for 1980, 
the GPU utilities could save and the other mem- 
bers of the PJM pool relinquish as much as $32 
million. As part of this proposal, the pool- 
member utilities were to petition their respective 
state and city regulatory bodies for a finding that 
the proposal was "in the public interest." (583) 
Then the matter would be turned over to the Fed- 
eral Energy Eegulatbry Commission, 146 which has 
jurisdiction over the proposed PJM rate modifi- 
cation. (That agency regulates all wholesale power 
sales in the country.) (585) 

As called for under the proposal, pool members 
began taking steps to obtain approval of the pro- 
posed PJM modification from utility regulators 
in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey 
and the District of Columbia. Prompt approval 
was not forthcoming. The D.C. Public Service 
Commission gave indications that it might take 
six months before reaching any decision on the 
proposal, (586) which, if implemented, would have 
resulted in increased costs to District customers. 

Given the prospective delay, GPU decided in 
late March to abandon efforts first to get state 
regulatory approval of the cost plus 10 percent 
arrangement negotiated by the other PJM pool 
members. (588) GPU thus filed papers with the 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stating 
that it had "not been feasible to obtain an agree-